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About the Collection

 The birth of a comprehensive photography program at the Smithsonian American Art Museum—comprising acquistion, exhibitions, and publications—dates to the 1983 transfer of 1,884 works of promising contemporary American photographers from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Through steady purchases and gifts, including the addition of the Isaacs Collection—made possible through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment—the collection has grown to more than 3,300 images. The museum has concentrations of works by such American masters as Irving Penn, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Aaron Siskind, Helen Levitt, and Harry Callahan, and by artists who belonged to the New York Photo League during the late 1930s and 1940s.

A group of 300 contemporary landscapes by 50 photographers from accross the United States was added in 1987, and featured in the nationally touring exhibition, Between Home and Heaven: Contemporary American Landscape Photography. Other important photography shows mounted by the museum include Irving Penn Master Images (1990), The Photography of Invention: American Pictures of the 1980s (1989), and Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray (1988).
 

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