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Beginning August 25, the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens will present the first complete retrospective of the work of photographer Doris Ulmann.

Ulmann (1882–1934) created studio portraits of literary and artistic celebrities in her native New York, but she also traveled across the South to document the rural craftspeople of Appalachia and the African American and Gullah communities of coastal South Carolina and Georgia.

Although her portraits include many of the most famous intellectuals, artists and writers of her day — William Butler Yeats, John Dewey, Max Eastman, Sinclair Lewis, Lewis Mumford, Martha Graham, Anna Pavlova, Paul Robeson and Lillian Gish among them — she was an extremely private person and left little documentation outside of her images.

“A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power, constitutes for me an interesting face,” she said in a rare interview in 1930.

For the exhibition, entitled Vernacular Modernism, GMA’s curator of American art Sarah Kate Gillespie has selected 100 of Ulmann’s photographs from museum and library collections to display alongside related books, crafts and works of art by her contemporaries.

Unidentified photographer (possibly John Jacob Niles), Doris Ulmann Holding Tripod, ca. 1930, posthumous gelatin silver print, printed by Samuel Lifshey, ca. 1934–37, 8 x 6 inches, Berea College Art Collection, Bequest of Doris Ulmann, Accession No. 150.140.7678

Doris Ulmann, Aunt Lou Kitchen, Shootin’ Creek, North Carolina, ca. 1933, posthumous gelatin silver print, printed by Samuel Lifshey, ca. 1934–37, 8 x 6 inches, Berea College Art Collection, Bequest of Doris Ulmann, Accession No. 150.140.2663

Doris Ulmann, Baptism, ca. 1929–31, platinum print approx. 8 x 6 inches, Collection of the University of Oregon Libraries

Doris Ulmann, Native American or Melungeon Boys, Bryson City, NC, ca. 1933, posthumous gelatin silver print, printed by Samuel Lifshey, ca. 1934–37, 8 x 6 inches, Berea College Art Collection, Bequest of Doris Ulmann, Accession No. 150.140.6947

Doris Ulmann, Katharine Cornell, ca. 1922, platinum print, 8 x 6 inches, Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Georgia Museum of Art Board of Advisors in memory of Carlyn Fischer GMOA 2018.12

Doris Ulmann, Untitled (African dancer), n.d., gelatin silver print approx. 8 x 6 inches, University of Kentucky Art Museum, Gift of Thomas M.T. Niles and John Edward Niles, 1987.39.9

Doris Ulmann, Hands, ca. 1918, platinum print approx. 8 1⁄2 × 6 1⁄2 inches, photograph Collection, New York Historical Society Library

Doris Ulmann, Katie Jones, ca. 1929–31, photogravure for Roll, Jordan, Roll, 8 x 6 inches, Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

Doris Ulmann, Cheever Meaders and His Daughters, Cleveland, GA, ca. 1933, posthumous gelatin silver print, printed by Samuel Lifshey, ca. 1934–37, 8 x 6 inches, used with permission of the Doris Ulmann Foundation; Berea College Art Collection, Bequest of Doris Ulmann, Accession No. 150.140.3257

Doris Ulmann, Member of the Order of Sisters of the Holy Family and Child (probably a student), New Orleans, LA, December 1931, posthumous gelatin silver print, printed by Samuel Lifshey, ca. 1934–37, 8 x 6 inches, Berea College Art Collection, Bequest of Doris Ulmann, Accession No. 150.140.3406

Doris Ulmann, Sailor, possibly Mobile, AL, ca. 1932, posthumous gelatin silver print, printed by Samuel Lifshey, ca. 1934–37, 8 x 6 inches, Berea College Art Collection, Bequest of Doris Ulmann, Accession No. 150.140.6858

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