Robert Frank

Biography

Considered one of the most influential figures in the history of photography, Robert Frank (1924-2019) redefined the aesthetic of both the still and the moving image via his pictures and films.
Soon after his emigration to New York in 1947, Alexey Brodovitch hired Frank as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. The position brought many occasions for travel, and Frank’s impressions of the United States, in comparison to other places, impacted his work. After receiving his first Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955, Frank embarked on a two-year trip across America during which he took over 28,000 pictures. Eighty-three of those images were ultimately published in Frank’s groundbreaking monograph The Americans, first by Robert Delpire in 1958 in Paris, and a year later by Grove Press in the United States. Frank’s unorthodox cropping, lighting, and sense of focus attracted criticism. His work, however, was not without supporters. Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg felt a kinship with Frank and his interest in documenting the fabric of contemporary society. Eventually The Americans jettisoned Frank into a position of cultural prominence; he became the spokesperson for a generation of visual artists, musicians, and literary figures both in the United States and abroad.
In 1959 Frank began making films. They are characterized by an improvisational quality that belies their careful planning. His 1972 documentary of the Rolling Stones on tour is perhaps Frank’s best-known film. When he returned to still photography, his work began to include autobiographical elements and a snapshot aesthetic. He also created narratives using text and multiple frames of images whose negatives he deliberately scratched and altered. In a career spanning over fifty years, Frank inflected his perspective on our world-at-large to produce a body of work that defies easy classification beyond its singularly experimental nature.
Frank’s photography and films have been the subject of exhibitions in the United States and abroad since Edward Steichen first included Frank’s photographs in the 1950 group show 51 American Photographers at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frank was given his first solo show, Robert Frank: Photographer, by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, and the Museum of Modern Art again highlighted Frank’s work in the 1962 exhibition Photographs by Harry Callahan and Robert Frank. Zurich’s Kunsthaus mounted the first retrospective of Frank’s photographs in 1974, and others soon followed. Frank was the recipient of many honors, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, the first awarded to a European photographer (1955, 1956). His work can be found in collections worldwide, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Detroit Institute of Arts; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; the George Eastman House, Rochester; Maison Européene de la Photographie, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Stiftung fur die Photographie, Kunsthaus, Zurich; the Tate Modern, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In 1990 the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., established the Robert Frank Collection.

Biography

1924

born in Zurich, Switzerland

2019

died in Nova Scotia, Canada

Education

1931

Gabler School, Zurich, Switzerland

1937

Lavater Secondary School, Zurich, Switzerland

1941

studies French at the Institute Jomini in Payerne, Switzerland

Selected Awards and Fellowships

2014

Special Award Recipient Roswitha Haftmann Foundation

2002

Edward MacDowell Colony Medal

2000

Cornell Capa Award

1999

Honorary Doctorate from Göteborgs University

1998

Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award

1996

Victor Hasselblad Foundation Award

1986

Peer Award for Distinguished Career in Photography, The Friends of Photography in San Francisco

1985

Erich Salomon Prize, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Photographie

1970

American Film Institute Grant

1956

John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship

1955

John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship

Upcoming Solo Exhibitions

2024 – 2025

Life Dances On: Robert Frank in Dialogue,The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2023 – 2024

Robert Frank and Todd Webb: Across America, 1955, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA

2023

Robert Frank: Good Days Quiet, Inverness County Centre for the Arts, Nova Scotia, Canada

2019

Robert Frank: Unseen, C/O Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Robert Frank: Why Don’t We Talk About Photography Once Again? Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Kiyosato, Japan

2018

Robert Frank: Photos, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

Robert Frank, Hamiltons, London, England

Robert Frank: Books and Films. 1947-2017, Houston Center For Photography, Houston, TX, USA

Robert Frank, The Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria

2017

Robert Frank – American Contacts, Danziger Gallery, New York, NY, USA

Case Study, IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia, Spain

Robert Frank: Photos, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

2016

Robert Frank: Books and Films. 1947–2016, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria; HALLE 14 – Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig, Germany; Kunsthalle Ziegelhütte, Appenzell, Switzerland

Sideways, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, USA

2015

Robert Frank: Park/Sleep & Partida, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

Robert Frank. Books and Films. 1947–2014, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

2014

Robert Frank in America, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

Robert Frank. Books and Films. 1947–2014, Akademie der Bildenden Künste München, Germany

2012

Robert Frank: Painkiller, Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR, USA

Photographs from the Collections of Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Multimedia Complex of Actual Arts, Moscow, Russia

Robert Frank: From the Pennwick Foundation Collection, Danziger Gallery, New York, NY, USA

2009 – 2010

Robert Frank, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; traveled to San Francisco The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY , USA

Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs 1955, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, USA

2009

Robert Frank: Paris / The Americans, Jeu de Paume – Site Concorde, Paris, France

Robert Frank, Museum of Photography, Seoul, South Korea

Robert Frank: Lo Straniero Americano, Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy

The Americans, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Robert Frank: Paris, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; traveled to Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea, Milan, Italy; Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Drive-By Shooting, Cantor Arts Center, Stanford, CA, USA

2005

Robert Frank: Argumentos, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Robert Frank: Storylines, Tate Modern, London, England; traveled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Spain; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland

Robert Frank: In Canada, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Canada

2003

Robert Frank, London/Wales, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

2002

Robert Frank: Living Trust, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

2001

Robert Frank Hold Still – Keep Going, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain

1997

Robert Frank, Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg, Sweden

1995

Robert Frank: The Americans, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; traveled to The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI, USA

1994

Moving Out, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; traveled to Yokoitama, Japan; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA; Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM, USA

1961

Robert Frank: Photographer, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

Selected Group Exhibitions
2024-2025         
A Long Arc: Photography and the American South since 1845, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, USA

2024
ONLINE: Flags & Freedom: A Visual Journey Through American Identity, Robert Klein Gallery, South End, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Noir & Blanc: A Story of Photography, M+, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Reverberations, MOCA, Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, USA

50 Years, 50 Photographs selected by Wilhelm Schürmann, Kicken Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Chronorama: Photographic Treasures of the 20th Century, Museum für Fotografie, Berlin, Germany

2023 – 2024

Black & White: An Aesthetic of Photography, Bibliothèque nationale de France

A Long Arc: Photography and the American South since 1845, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, USA

Cities Are for People: Street Photography, 1945-1970, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

This Is Me, This Is You. The Eva Felten Photography Collection, Museum Brandhorst, Munich, Germany

2023

60 Years of Collecting: An anniversary exhibition celebrating the UMCA Permanent Art Collection, University Museum of Contemporary Art, UMass Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA 

2022-2023
An Alternative History of Photography: Works from the Solander Collection, The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK 

2022

Exhibition “COLLECTION: 150 Photographs from the Bachelot Collection”, Villa Medici, Roma, Italy

Studio to Stage. Music Photography from the Fifties to the Present, Pace New York (540 West 25th Street), Chelsea, New York, USA

Stuff. Organized by Arlene Shechet, Pace New York (540 West 25th Street), Chelsea, New York, USA

Conscious Response: Photographers Changing the Way We See, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA

TOP Collection: The Illumination of Life by Death, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Sculpting Reality. El estilo documental, Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain

Martín Chambi and His Contemporaries: The Andes Photographed, Fundació Foto Colectania, Barcelona, Spain

2021

Cruel Radiance: Photography, 1940s–1960s, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Upper East Side, New York, USA

Photography in the middle. Photography in the IVAM Collection after 1950, IVAM Alcoi, Alcoy, Spain

American Photography, Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria

Breaking the Frame: New Directions in Photo History, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sculpting Reality. The Documentary Style in The Per Amor A L’art Collection, Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia, Spain

Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine, The Jewish Museum New York, Upper East Side, New York, USA

2020

Noir & Blanc: Une Esthétique de la Photographie ,Musée National de la Renaissance, Écouen, France

Americans Looking In, Center for Book Arts, Midtown, New York, USA

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes: Notes on America, Pace New York (540 West 25th Street), Chelsea, New York, USA

PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

2019

Fall Selections: Classic Photographs, Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, Portland, Oregon, USA

The Levee: A Photographer in the American South, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Street. Life. Photography. Seven Decades of Street Photography, Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna, Austria

Viewpoints: Photographs from the Howard Greenberg Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ,Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Fil Noir: Exposition De La Collection De La Mep, MEP, Maison Européenne de la Photographie ,4e, Paris, France

Key Moments in Midcentury Art: Suspense, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine, USA

2018

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, Telfair Museums, Jepson Center, Savannah, Georgia, USA

Moment in Time: A Collection of Photographs, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, California, USA

The pulse of the body. Uses and representations of the space. Per Amor a l’Art Collection, Bombas Gens Centre d’Art ,Valencia, Spain

2017

Speech, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

2016

American Classics, Pace Gallery, New York, NY, USA

Make Light of It, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

Be-hold Open House, Be-hold, Yonkers, NY, USA

2014

Multi Panel, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

Foto Europa: 1840 to Present, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, USA

XL:19 New Acquisitions in Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

2013

Displaced Visions: Emigré Photographers of the 20th Century, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel

Motor City Muse: Detroit Photographs, Then and Now, Detroit Museum of Arts, Detroit, MI, USA

Family Portrait, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA

2012

The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the W.M. Hunt Collection, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY, USA

A Tribute to Robert Delpire: Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Josef Koudelka, Duane Michals, and Paolo Roversi, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

On Horizons, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland

2011

Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Public Works, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, USA

Wanna See my Portfolio?, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

2008

Playback, ARC/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France

2007

Icons of American Photography, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, USA

Far from Home: Photography, Travel, and Inspiration, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

The Streets of New York, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

2006

Reprocessing Reality, MoMA PS1, New York, NY, USA

American Beauty, National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne, Australia

2005

American Pictures, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA

The Open Book: A History of the Photographic Book from 1878 to the Present, International Center for Photography, New York, NY, USA

People in Series in Sequence, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY, USA

2004

Photography and Art Variations in Spain 1900-1980, MARCO Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Vigo, Spain

Few Are Chosen: Street Photography and the Book, 1936-1966, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

2003

Cruel and Tender, Tate Modern, London, England

1962

Photographs by Harry Callahan and Robert Frank, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

1961

51 American Photographers, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Selected Publications

2024                      
Cateforis, David. Modern Art: A Global Survey from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present, Oxford University Press, New York, USA

2023
Abadie, Ann J., and J. Richard Gruber. American Landscapes: Meditations on Art and Literature in a Changing World, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi, USA

America and Other Myths: Photographs by Robert Frank and Todd Webb, 1955 (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Yale University Press, Houston and New Haven, USA

Barefoot, Guy. The Drive-In: Outdoor Cinema in 1950s America and the Popular Imagination, Bloomsbury Academic, New York, USA

Bohemia: History of an Idea, 1950–2000 (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle Praha Services, Prague, Czech Republic

Corps à corps: Histoire(s) de la photogrpahie


(exhibition catalogue), Éditions du Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Davidson, Mark, and Parker Fishel, eds. Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine, Callaway, New York, USA

Elliott, Clare. Artists We’ve Known: Selected Works from the Walter Hopps and Caroline Huber Collection, The Menil Collection; Yale University Press, Houston and New Haven, USA

Gillham, Will, ed. Carter Handbook. Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Texas, USA

Ghost Stations: Amanda Dawn Christie, Thaddeus Holownia & Radio Canada International (exhibition catalogue), Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Ottawa, USA

In the Streets: Modern Life and Urban Experiences in the Art of the United States (exhibition catalogue), Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

A L

o

ng Arc: Photography and the American South since 1845


(exhibition catalogue), aperture; Atlanta, Georgia: High Museum of Art, New York, USA

Wujcik, Stacey A., ed. American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Ulrich, David. Bewusster fotografieren: Ein Wegweiser zu Achtsamkeit Kreativität persönlichem Aisdruck


, dpunkt.verlag, Heidelberg, Germany

Ulrich, David

. Mindfulness & Fotografia: Lezioni per Diventare Fotografi più Creative e Consapevoli,


Apogeo, Milan, Italy

2022

Burns, Ken.

Our America, Alfred A Knopf, New York

Détente, instante: Una Historia de la Fotografia (exhibition catalogue), Fundación Juan, Madrid, Spain

Golden, Reuel, ed. San Francisco: Portrait of a City, Taschen, Cologne, Germany

Heathcote, Edwin. On the Street: In-Between Architecture, HENI Publishing, London, UK

Morris-Reich, Amos. Photography and Jewish History: Five Twentieth-Century Cases, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, USA

Petrowskaja, Katja. Das Foto: Schaute Mich An, Suhrkamp Verlag AG, Berlin, Germany

Rogge, Corina E., ed. Franz Kline: The Artist’s Materials, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, USA

Sibylle Bergemann: Town and Country and Dogs Photographs 1966–2010 (exhibition catalogue), Hatje Cantz Verlag; Berlinische Galerie; Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Berlin, Germany

Taylor, Catherine. Image Text Music, SPBH Editions, London, UK

Top Collection: The Illumination of Life by Death—Memento mori & Photography (exhibition catalgoue), Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

2020

Act of Sight: The Tsiaras Family Photography Collection (exhibition catalogue), Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine, USA

Gifts of Art: The Met’s 150th Anniversary, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

2019
Robert Frank: Good Days Quiet. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl

2018
Claass, Arnaud. Essai sur Robert Frank, Filigranes éditions, Trézélan, France

2017
Robert Frank: Leon of Juda, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2017.

Robert Frank: Books and Films, Steidl/Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich, 2017.

2016
Robert Frank: Hold Still, Keep Going, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2016.

Robert Frank: Film Works, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2016.

Robert Frank: What We Have Seen, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2016.

2013

Frank, Robert. Partida. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2013.

Galassi, Peter. Robert Frank: In America, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl and Cantor Arts Center, 2013.

Frank, Robert. Household Inventory Record. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2013.

2012

Frank, Robert. Robert Frank: Valencia 1952. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2012.

Frank, Robert. You Would. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2012.

2011

Frank, Robert. Robert Frank, Pangnirtung. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2011.

2008

Frank, Robert. Paris. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2008.

Frank, Robert. Come Again. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2008.

2004

Todoli, Vicente. Robert Frank, Storylines. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl 2004.

2002

Brookman, Philip. London/Wales. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2002.

2001

Frank, Robert. Hold Still…Keep Going. Zurich, Switzerland: Scalo Publishers, 2001.

1997

Frank, Robert. Flamingo. Zurich, Switzerland: Scalo Publishers, 1997.

1996

Frank, Robert. Thank You. Zurich, Switzerland: Scalo Publishers, 1996.

1994

Frank, Robert. Black White and Things. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art & Scalo, 1994.

1989

Frank, Robert. The Lines of My Hand. New York, NY: Pantheon, 1989.

1986

Frank, Robert. New York to Nova Scotia. Houston, TX: Little, Brown and Company & The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1986.

1959

Frank, Robert. The Americans. New York, NY: Grove Press, 1959.

1958

Frank, Robert. Les Americains. Lausanne, Switzerland: Robert Delpire, 1958.

Selected Collections

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Tate Modern, London, England

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Paris, France

Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte – Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona, Spain

Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland

Stiftung für die Photographie, Zürich, Switzerland

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, USA

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, USA

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA

George Eastman House, Rochester, NY, USA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, USA

Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

Exhibitions

Documents

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