The Thrill of the Chase

The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum

September 10 — December 11, 2016

Header image for The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum

The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum showcased a wide range of photographs from the Getty’s collection. Organized by Paul Martineau, Associate Curator for the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the exhibition used these photographs as a foil for exploring Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr.’s enduring vision and influence.

From 1973 to 1984, Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. (American, 1921-1987) assembled one of the most important private collections of photographs in the world. Wagstaff promoted photography as an art form by organizing exhibitions, delivering lectures, and publishing material on his collection. In 1984, a few years before his death from AIDS-related complications, Wagstaff sold his collection to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Numbering several thousand, the collection now forms a cornerstone of the Getty Museum’s holdings of photographs.

Wagstaff served as a curator of paintings and sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (1961-1968) and curator of contemporary art at the Detroit Institute of Art (1969-1971). In addition to being a collector and curator, he was the mentor and lover of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. In 1973, Wagstaff began to sell his collection of contemporary paintings in order to raise funds to purchase photographs. He was not only at the forefront of establishing a market for this neglected art form; his reputation as an arbiter of artistic taste also provided an impetus for the collection and study of photography by museums and scholars.

Well-known photographers such as William Henry Fox Talbot, Gustave Le Gray, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edgar Degas, Walker Evans, Dr. Harold Edgerton, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and William Klein were featured, among many others. A companion exhibition, drawn from the Wadsworth Atheneum’s permanent collection and titled Sam Wagstaff as Curator, was on view alongside The Thrill of the Chase.

Exhibition Programs
Members’ Preview | September 9 at 6pm
Wagstaff’s Eye for Photography | October 12 at 6pm
Member Morning | October 14 at 9am
Gallery Talk: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs | October 21 at noon
Sunday Serenades: Mozart and Man Ray | October 23 at 2pm
Gallery Talk: Photography’s Sudden Adventures | October 27 at noon
Gallery Talk: Sam Wagstaff as Curator | November 4 at noon
Second Saturdays: The Photographer’s Eye | November 12 from 10am–1pm
Art Talk: The Photographic Object | November 16 at 6pm

Photographers in Film Series
Closer | November 10 at 7pm
Distant | November 11 at 7pm
Rear Window | November 12 at 2pm
Dreams | November 19 at 2pm
Blow Up | November 19 at 3:30pm

Special Exhibition Tours
Join a docent for a tour of The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs Saturdays & Sundays at 2:30 pm from October 1–December 11, 2016. Tours are free with museum admission and meet by the Museum Shop.

A 193-page, full-color illustrated catalogue, featuring essays by Paul Martineau and art historian Eugenia Parry, and produced by Getty Publications, accompanies the exhibition. The hardcover catalogue can be purchased for $59.95 in the Museum Shop.

Tour Venues
The J. Paul Getty Museum | March 15 – July 31, 2016
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art | September 10 – December 11, 2016
Portland Museum of Art, Maine, February 1 – April 30, 2017

Exhibition Credit
This exhibition is made possible by


Generous support comes from the David T. Langrock Foundation, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and Nancy D. Grover. Additional support comes from the William O. and Carole P. Bailey Exhibition Fund, the Howard Fromson Exhibition Fund, and the Larsen Photography Fund. Educational programming is supported by the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation Fund. Additional funding is provided by Jeffrey G. Marsted and Marcia Reid Marsted. Support for the Wadsworth Atheneum is provided in part by the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign.

Images (left to right): Jean Pierre Philippe Lampué, Still life of sculpture and architectural fragments, 1868, Albumen silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XP.458.28; Lisette Model, [Running Legs, Forty-second Street, New York], 1940-41, Gelatin silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XP.789.9 © Estate of Lisette Model, courtesy Baudoin Lebon / Keitelman; Baron Adolf De Meyer, [Rita de Acosta Lydig], negative 1913; print 1914, Gelatin silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.471.4