New in 2015: Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters

By | December 29, 2015

For the rest of the year, we’re highlighting amazing works of art that became part of the SLAM collection in 2015. We’ll be posting a new acquisition daily through the end of the year. You can read each installment here

Artist Nicholas Nixon discusses his four-decade photography project, The Brown Sisters, at a February lecture in the Art Museum’s Farrell Auditorium. The 40-print series is a 2015 acquisition.

Since 1975, Nicholas Nixon has been photographing his wife Beverly “Bebe” Brown and her three sisters at annual family get-togethers. What began as a record of family life when the subjects were in their 20s has evolved into one of the most compelling series in contemporary photography. In November 2014, the Art Museum opened the exhibition Nicholas Nixon: 40 Years of The Brown Sisters, which featured works from the collection of Yvette and John Dubinsky, longtime collectors of Nixon’s art.

The Dubinskys this year gave the Museum the entire series, which includes each of 40 black and white prints from 1975 to 2014.

Elizabeth Wyckoff and Eric Lutz

Elizabeth Wyckoff and Eric Lutz

The gift will complement 23 other works by Nixon in the collection, dating from 1978 through 2006. These images span much of the artist’s career through the thematic areas of families on porches, elderly in nursing homes, school children, and couples in embrace.

The Brown Sisters series is a stunning meditation on familial relationships, aging, and the passage of time; but it is more than that. “This is a unique and significant series in the history of photography,” curators Elizabeth Wyckoff and Eric Lutz noted in an acquisition proposal. They continued:

Nixon has transformed the conventional family portrait into something both strikingly intimate and resonantly universal that has proven to be extremely engaging with the museum-going public. Few institutions have complete sets of contact… The gift would make the Museum a major repository of Nixon’s work. Just as the series is about the passage of time, so does the gift hold meaning in conveying a long relationship between the donors and the artist.