Nicholas Nixon: 40 Years of The Brown Sisters
November 21, 2014–April 5, 2015
Gallery 235


Since 1975, the American Nicholas Nixon has been photographing his wife Beverly Brown (Bebe) and her three sisters at annual family get-togethers. What began as a record of family life when the subjects were in their twenties has evolved into one of the most compelling series in contemporary photography. This exhibition commemorates the 40th anniversary of this project, known as The Brown Sisters. All 40 black and white prints—one print from each year—will circle Gallery 235, providing a stunning meditation on familial relationships, aging, and the passage of time.

With this series, Nixon has transformed the conventional family portrait into something both strikingly intimate and resonantly universal. The viewer is drawn into a powerful sense of engagement with the subjects who are consistently close to Nixon's lens, often filling the frame with their candid gazes. Taken with a large-format camera and contact printed (producing images the same size as the negative), Nixon creates photographs with extraordinary detail and rich tonality. In these carefully composed scenes, we are left to contemplate the sisters' expressions and gestures of strength, vulnerability, and affection. We witness the effects of a lifetime on each as individuals, and on their relationships with each other, including Nixon himself.

Nixon is known for his inquisitive and sensitive portraiture of subjects that include schoolchildren, families on porches, nursing home residents, and his own family. He is a Boston-based photographer who has been active since 1970 and has been a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design since 1975. He is represented in major public collections across the country including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and sets of his Brown Sister series are held by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

This installation celebrates the recent promised gift of the Brown Sisters series from local donors Yvette and John Dubinsky. The Dubinskys have helped the Museum to collect works by Nixon over many years, and the addition of The Brown Sisters makes the Museum a major repository of Nixon's work. Nicholas Nixon: 40 Years of The Brown Sisters is curated by Eric Lutz, associate curator of prints, drawings, and photographs.