Minneapois Institute of Arts
New Pictures at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Inside Stories on the Permanent Collection

Posted Apr 21, 2011

Bourke-White Photograph Sails into MIA Collection Undetected

Margaret Bourke-White, American, 1904-1971
Vanitie, International Yacht Races, Newport, Rhode Island, 1934
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Kodak Camera Club, 92.18.3

In 1992, a retired photographer gave the museum three photographs, including one of a yacht with billowing sails that had the inscription “From C. P. Curtis” on the back of its mount. After the picture was accepted by the museum, I removed the mat and plastic wrapping that were not original, hoping to find information on Curtis. To my surprise and  delight, I found that the photograph was signed by Margaret Bourke-White, the great photojournalist who provided a different image for the first cover of Life magazine, in 1936. Reproductions elsewhere confirmed that the image was by her, and we changed our records to reflect that fact. Curtis must have been the individual who gave the photograph to our donor, thus it was, indeed, “From C. P. Curtis,” but definitely not by Curtis.

This was the first photograph the MIA acquired by Bourke-White, albeit in a rather unorthodox fashion. The five other pictures by her that subsequently entered the permanent collection, did so with us knowing who they were by.

Christian A. Peterson, association curator of photographs