Exhibition: ‘The Stillness of Things: Photographs from the Lane Collection’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Exhibition dates: 27th August, 2022 – 27th February, 2023


William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877) 'Articles of China' before 1844


William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
Articles of China
Before 1844
Salt print from a paper negative
The Lane Collection



A small but vibrant posting. Beautiful still life photographs my favourite being those by Mather, Sommer, Weston, Cunningham, Sudek and Morrell.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


This exhibition presents nearly 60 innovative photographs – all departures from the traditional still life – drawn from the MFA’s Lane Collection. Grouped thematically, the works on view span the entire history of photography, from its first introduction in England during the 1840s by William Henry Fox Talbot to the work of contemporary artists such as Adam Fuss, David Hilliard, Kenro Izu, Abelardo Morell, and Olivia Parker. Works by American modernists are prominently featured, with unexpected takes on the still life by Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Sheeler, and Edward Weston – photographers better known for capturing vast landscapes and portraits of people.

One of the largest gifts in the MFA’s history, the Lane Collection was promised to the Museum in 2012. This exhibition is the latest in a series that has celebrated the single most important donation to the Museum’s photography holdings.

Text from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website



Margrethe Mather (American, 1886-1952) 'Water Lily' 1922


Margrethe Mather (American, 1886-1952)
Water Lily
Palladium print
The Lane Collection


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965) 'Still Life' Early 1920s


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965)
Still Life
Early 1920s
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection



Loosely organised by subject from messy desktops, kitchen utensils, and flora to empty chairs or found objects, the exhibit revels the mid-twentieth century strengths of the collection with works by modernists such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and especially Charles Sheeler. Sheeler pays homage to the painter Morandi with two still lifes featuring a simple ewer and ceramic vase and to Cezanne in a composition of apples. Often overlooked among the modernist masters are women such as Margaret Mather and Imogen Cunningham. Mather’s wispy pine needles and delicate water lily classically weave light, form and abstraction while Cunningham brings a geometric edge to the aloe plant she photographed on her window sill.

Suzanne Révy. “The Stillness of Things,” on the What Will You Remember website September 14, 2022 [Online] Cited 31/01/2023


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Aloe Variagata' Early 1930's


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Aloe Variagata
Early 1930’s
Gelatin silver print
Lane Collection


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965) 'Cactus and Photographer's Lamp' 1931


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965)
Cactus and Photographer’s Lamp
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection


Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Still Life, San Francisco' about 1932


Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Still Life, San Francisco
about 1932
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999) 'Chicken Entrails' 1939


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Chicken Entrails
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection


Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Junk' 1939


Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'The Unmade Bed' 1957


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
The Unmade Bed
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
© 2022 Imogen Cunningham Trust


Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976) 'From the Window of my Atelier' 1965


Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
From the Window of my Atelier
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
© I & G Fárová Heirs


Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'TV Dinner' 1971


Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
TV Dinner
Gelatin silver print on canvas with pastel, chalk, and resin
The Lane Collection
© The Robert Heinecken Trust


Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Gingko Leaves' 1990


Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Gingko Leaves
Dye-transfer print
The Lane Collection


Abelardo Morell (Cuban, b. 1948) 'Wavy Book' 2001


Abelardo Morell (Cuban, b. 1948)
Wavy Book
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
© Abelardo Morell/Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, NYC


Adam Fuss (British, b. 1961) 'Butterfly' 2002


Adam Fuss (British, b. 1961)
From the series My Ghost
The Lane Collection
© Adam Fuss


David Hilliard (American, b. 1964) 'Perennial' 2006


David Hilliard (American, b. 1964)
Archival pigment print
Museum purchase with funds donated by Saundra B. Lane
© David Hilliard



Olivia Parker’s green and purple artichoke dangling from a string is a nod to the Spanish painter Juan Sánchez Cotán whose vegetable paintings depict foodstuffs hung high to keep rodents at bay. Her work is installed near two surrealist pictures by Frederick Sommer. His jarring but beautiful compositions of chicken heads and innards brim with the tension between the life sustaining nourishment the chicken may have provided and the stark reminder of our mortality. And in an ironic twist, David Hilliard’s ebullient polyptych, Perennial, features an aisle of plastic Walmart flowers that were his mother’s favorites, in striking contrast to the ephemeral flowers featured in countless still life paintings in the galleries of the museum.

Suzanne Révy. “The Stillness of Things,” on the What Will You Remember website September 14, 2022 [Online] Cited 31/01/2023


Olivia Parker (American, b. 1941) 'Artichoke' 2010


Olivia Parker (American, b. 1941)
Digital inkjet print
The Lane Collection
© Olivia Parker 2010



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 5pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 10pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website


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