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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Old Masters’ Madonnas in “New World” Photographs: Instances and Impact of Interpictoriality in Lewis W. Hine’s Photography


This article proposes to investigate the degree and manner in which American photographer Lewis W. Hine in his works of the early twentieth century drew on previous artworks originating outside the United States. Many of Lewis Hine’s photographs, as the analysis of three selected case studies shows, make clear implicit and/or explicit interpictorial references. More specifically, the article focuses on the usage of the Madonna motif in selected Renaissance paintings, in photographs by nineteenth-century British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, and in photographs by Hine. In these pictures, taken in such diverse contexts as Ellis Island, New York City tenements, and post–World War I Europe, Hine ventures beyond the representation of his actual photographic subjects, women and children, thereby expanding his photographic repertoire as well as the pictures’ meanings: by referring more or less overtly to other artworks and art forms, Hine adds not only to the appeal, the implications, and thus the effectiveness of his pictures (in the context of social documentary), he also redefines and repositions himself as a photographer between the two presumably opposite poles of social documentary and art photography.

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