John Szarkowski (1925-2007) attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received a BS in the History of Art in 1948.
Shortly following his graduation Szarkowski joined the staff of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, where he was hired as the museum photographer (1948-51). He quickly established a strong reputation as a practicing photographer and continued in that direction for over a decade. In 1962 Szarkowski was chosen to succeed legendary curator Edward Steichen as the Director of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. During his nearly 30-year tenure in that post, Szarkowski expanded upon the major accomplishments of his predecessor, giving solo exhibitions to Andre Kertesz, J.H. Lartigue, and Diane Arbus, among others.
Unanimously acknowledged for his curatorial vision and articulate advocacy of the photographic medium, Szarkowski authored numerous books and catalogs while establishing one of the most comprehensive collections of photography in the world. Following his 1991 retirement from MoMA, Szarkowski resumed work as a photographer and continues to be actively involved in the field via teaching, lectures, and the publication of books and articles.
As a photographer, Szarkowski had his first solo show at the Walker Art Center (1949), and other one-person exhibitions soon followed. More recently the Cleveland Museum of Art mounted “Land in Light: John Szarkowski Photographs” (2000), and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art organized the traveling retrospective “John Szarkowski: Photographs” (2005-07). The exhibition’s venues also included the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Another traveling retrospective of his work with venues in Germany, Poland and Spain is being planned for 2008-09.
Szarkowski has received numerous awards for his scholarship and contributions to the field, including two Guggenheim Fellowships (1954, 1961) and six honorary doctorate degrees. Additional accolades include the City of New York Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture (1979), the Award for a Distinguished Career in Photography from Friends of Photography (1988), the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Writing (1989) and for Lifetime Achievement (1995), and two National Arts Club Awards (1998, 2005).
His work is in numerous collections, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass.; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Hallmark Art Collection, Kansas City; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Princeton University Art Museum, N.J.; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, Lawrence; and the Yale University Art Gallery.
Monographs of Szarkowski’s work include The Idea of Louis Sullivan (1956), The Face of Minnesota (1958), Mr. Bristol’s Barn: With Excerpts from Mr. Blinn’s Diary (1997), and John Szarkowski: Photographs (2005). In spring 2008, the University of Minnesota Press reissued The Face of Minnesota to celebrate the state’s sesquicentennial.