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Wright Morris

Born in 1910, artist Wright Morris was a renowned writer and affective photographer. Pairing photographs with his own writing, Morris pioneered a new tradition of “photo-texts” in the 1940s that proved highly influential to future photographers. Morris’ works are devoid of figure and often poetic.

Born in Nebraska, Morris’s mother passed soon after his birth, leaving him with his father who was a traveler and “wanderer” who left Morris in the care of neighbours. After attending college in California, he travelled through Europe and purchased his first camera in Vienna. Morris returned to California in 1934 determined to become a writer but started photographing extensively. Morris first exhibited his photo-texts in 1940, at the New School for Social Research in New York. This same year the Museum of Modern Art purchased prints for their collection and New Directions published images that would become his first book. In 1942, Morris received the first of his three Guggenheim Fellowships.

Morris continued to publish photo-text book and he invested much time into his writing and had a successful career as a writer. In 1956, Morris won the National Book Award for his tenth book. Morris’s acclaimed novel, Plains Song won American Book Award for Fiction 1981.

The Museum of Modern Art proved supportive of Morris throughout his career, both exhibiting and purchasing his work. Morris’s exhibition career burgeoned in his later years with many shows including Wright Morris: Origin of a Species, a 1992 retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and following his death, Distinctly American: The Photography of Wright Morris at Stanford’s Cantor Center of Art in 2002. Morris died in 1998.

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