Robert Frank, Assembly Plant, Ford, Detroit, 1955, gelatin silver print.
Detroit Institute of Arts. © Robert Frank. DIA No. 1999.11
Beat poet Jack Kerouac expressed the complex nature of the artist and his work in a passage from his introduction to The Americans stating, “Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.” Born in 1924 in Zurich, Switzerland, Frank emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. He worked on assignments for magazines from 1948–53, but his photographic books garnered the highest acclaim.
After publishing The Americans, he began filmmaking and directed the early experimental masterpiece Pull My Daisy, in collaboration with Jack Kerouac in 1959. Frank continues to work in both film and photography and has been the subject of many traveling exhibitions in recent years. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. established Frank’s photographic archive in 1990 and organized his first traveling retrospective, Moving Out, in 1995 as well as a 2009 exhibition Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans.” Frank lives in Mabou, Nova Scotia, and New York City with his wife, artist June Leaf.
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The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA's collection is known for its quality, range, and depth.
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