Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Presents a Unique View of Mid-Century America through 100 Iconic Photographs

October 16, 2023

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is set to showcase the riveting works of two renowned photographers. Both were honored with grants from the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Foundation in April 1955, marking a significant milestone in the world of photography.

Two Diverse Approaches

Todd Webb, a celebrated figure in the art photography sphere during 1955, chose to embark on an eight-month journey from New York to California, showcasing urban and rural life alike. On the other hand, Robert Frank, a pioneering force in the industry, embarked on numerous road trips over two years, capturing America's heart and soul.

Robert Frank
American, 1924–2019
Rodeo, New York City, 1955–56 Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum purchase funded by Jerry E. and Nanette Finger, 84.135
exhibition: 24.022 Frank and Webb color: s

A Reflection of Their Journeys

The exhibit sheds light on the way both artists portrayed life during their travels. From the bars and bustling streets to quiet neighborhoods, their lenses captured the essence of America's diverse landscapes and cultures.

Todd Webb
American, 1905–2000
Cowboy, Lexington, NE, 1955, printed 2023 Inkjet print
The Todd Webb Archive, Portland, ME

Director & Curator Insights

“The union of these two exceptional talents in a single exhibition offers an unprecedented insight into America's mid-century era," expressed Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He further adds, "The diverse yet complementary perspectives of Frank and Webb provide a holistic view of a transformative period in American history."

Robert Frank
American, 1924–2019
U.S. 285, New Mexico, 1955 Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum purchase funded by Jerry E. and Nanette Finger, 83.89
Robert Frank made several trips throughout the United States in a used Ford. For Frank, the quick method of travel matched his energetic photographic style and his restless personal energy. His cross-country project was an ambi- tious artistic effort, one that required constant adaptation. “I have been going forward, travel- ling my road while looking out,” he wrote. “I am listening to my voice. The landscape changes and me too.”

The Importance of Comparison

When juxtaposed, the works of Frank and Webb offer a profound understanding of America's socio-cultural landscape during the mid-century. Their individual styles and approaches provide a multi-faceted view, enhancing the appreciation of their respective contributions.

Profiles of the Artists

Robert Frank revolutionized photography over six decades with his innovative perspectives. Born in Switzerland, he later adopted America as his home, leaving an indelible mark on its photographic history. Todd Webb, known for his deep connection with the subjects he captured, chronicled post-war America with a unique flair and sensitivity.

Exhibition Catalogue & Resources

A comprehensive illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, enriching the visitor experience with detailed insights, artist profiles, and a deeper exploration of their works.

Special Events & Screenings

To enhance the exhibition experience, the museum will host an opening day lecture titled “New Beginnings: Robert Frank and Todd Webb Across America, 1955”, providing a comprehensive overview of the artists' journeys and their significant contributions.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Occupying a sprawling 14 acres in Houston’s Museum District, the institution stands as a testament to the evolution of art and culture over centuries.

Robert Frank
American, 1924–2019
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1955 Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Target Collection of American Photography, museum purchase funded by Target Stores, 82.509

Interested in the overlooked and uncelebrated, Robert Frank found the roads and roadside amenities outside of town just as fascinating as the towns themselves. Frank photographed the sign and pumps of this gas station in New Mexico from a low angle, presenting them jutting into the sky as if these structures were the skyscrapers of a metropolis. “The places that interest me are on the way,” he noted.

Featured Works in the Exhibition

Highlighted pieces include Robert Frank’s “Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1955” and Todd Webb’s captivating capture of “Garden City, KS, 1955”, among many others that promise to leave visitors in awe. Explore more at