Fine Art Photography Daily

Nicholas Nixon: Persistence of Vision

NN-1975_The Brown Sisters, New Caanan, CT

©Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters, New Caanan, CT, 1975

Though I have appreciated Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters for a long time, it wasn’t until I stood in front of the actual images at the Museum of Modern Art that I saw so clearly the artistry of the annual portrait of four sisters and the deep commitment to the photograph taken by both the sitter and the photographer. Nicholas has a legacy of finding beauty in our humanness and this legacy in now in an extensive exhibition at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) .

Nicholas Nixon: Persistence of Vision is a survey of the Boston-based artist’s prolific career that includes 113 works. The exhibition is organized around Nixon’s remarkable ongoing project The Brown Sisters, a series of group portraits of his wife and her three sisters taken annually since 1975. The Brown Sisters will be presented in its entirety—including a new portrait from 2017 making its U.S. debut—and each portrait will be paired with other photographs made by Nixon in the same year, drawn from various bodies of work. Together these pictures allow viewers to both take in the visual sweep of passing time through The Brown Sisters series, and delve more deeply into each year through close looking. Accompanying the exhibition is an extensive audio guide narrated by the artist, giving audiences insights into the various bodies of work completed by Nixon over the last four decades. The exhibition is organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Jessica Hong, Curatorial Associate, and will be on view through April 22, 2018.

NN-1984_The Brown Sisters, Truro, Massachusetts, 1984

©Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters, Truro, Massachusetts, 1984

“In his numerous series, Nixon gets to know his subjects while photographing them, making the role of time, inherent to the medium of photography, an integral part of the content and process of his work,” says Respini. “Amidst today’s increasingly frenetic pace of life and digitally mediated social relations, Nixon’s pictures invite us to slow down, look, and reflect on the nature of human relationships.”Other works in the exhibition include, among others, additional family photographs; self-portraits; images from his hallmark series of people with AIDS or near death; studies of students at schools such as the Perkins School for the Blind outside of Boston or his son’s elementary school in Cambridge, MA; and Boston cityscapes.

NN-1992_The Brown Sisters, Concord, Massachusetts, 1992

©Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters, Concord, Massachusetts, 1992

Working exclusively on film, Nixon uses a large format 8 x 10 inch camera, affording his pictures an unparalleled clarity of detail and description.  He often photographs his subjects at close range, encouraging a sense of intimacy in the act of photographing and looking. Organized in collaboration with the artist, the selected photographs demonstrate the breadth of Nixon’s practice and dedication to revealing the incredible moments in the everyday. Together with The Brown Sisters, these compelling pictures are a testament to Nixon’s persistence of vision.

NN-2016_The Brown Sisters, Truro, Massachusetts, 2016

©Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters, Truro, Massachusetts, 2016

About the artist
Nicholas Nixon was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1947. The artist earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1969 and an M.F.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1975. He has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and two Guggenheim Fellowships. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) (2014/2006), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2010), the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2006), the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (2005), and the Cincinnati Art Museum (2005). His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MoMA in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among many others. Based in Boston since the 1970s, Nixon is Professor of Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The ICA presented exhibitions of Nixon’s work in 1982, Nicholas Nixon’s New Contact Prints, and in 1983, Nicholas Nixon: Photographs From One Year, and has also collected his work.


©Nicholas Nixon

About the ICA
An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for 80 years. Like its iconic building on Boston’s waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas.


©Nicholas Nixon


©Nicholas Nixon

NN-03-054_John Royston, Easton, Massachusetts, 2006

©Nicholas Nixon, John Royston, Easton, Massachusetts, 2006

NN-03-042_Suzanne Richardson, Brigham & WomenGÇÖs Hospital, Boston, 2005

©Nicholas Nixon, Suzanne Richardson, Brigham & WomenGÇÖs Hospital, Boston, 2005

NN-03-001_C.C., Boston, 1983

©Nicholas Nixon, C.C., Boston, 1983

Nixon Book 09.tif

©Nicholas Nixon

NN-08-041_View of Boston Common, 2002

©Nicholas Nixon, View of Boston Common, 2002

NN-01-026_View of Essex Street, Near the Massachusetts Turnpike, Boston, 1976

©Nicholas Nixon, View of Essex Street, Near the Massachusetts Turnpike, Boston, 1976

NN-02-021_Hyannis, Massachusetts, 1978

©Nicholas Nixon, Hyannis, Massachusetts, 1978

NN-04-558_Sam, St. Maries de la Mar, France, 1997

©Nicholas Nixon, Sam, St. Maries de la Mar, France, 1997


©Nicholas Nixon

NN-02-085_Covington, Kentucky, 1982

©Nicholas Nixon, Covington, Kentucky, 1982

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