Iconic collection of photographer Lucien Aigner finds a home


This story has been modified to correct the year that Aigner moved to Great Barrington and his age at his death.

GREAT BARRINGTON — The iconic, at times breathtaking, collection of historic photos by legendary photojournalist Lucien Aigner has finally found a permanent home.

The collection, which consists of tens of thousands of prints, negatives and contact sheets from Aigner's lengthy career, had for years been housed in a Boston-area warehouse.

Now it will be shared at three sites: The Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, the Yale University Art Gallery and Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library will hold the collection jointly, according to Rebecca Mongeon, communications director of the Addison Gallery.

Mongeon said the Addison Gallery and Yale will each get several hundred photos, while the Beinecke will be the repository of Aigner's negatives, contact sheets and notes.

Aigner, who moved to Great Barrington in 1954, died in 1999 at age 97. He is known throughout the world for his pictures of world leaders, famous athletes and celebrities.

"He would be so pleased that his photographs and writings will now not only be safe, but they will be available to future generation for viewing and research," said his daughter, Anne-Marie Aigner, in a statement.

In 2015, his heirs donated about 1,000 prints, negatives and contact sheets of local people and places to the Great Barrington Historical Society.

The remainder of the collection is estimated to be in the tens of thousands of individual prints, negatives and contact sheets. The collection is augmented by Aigner's extensive notes on each set of photos or contact sheets.

Aigner was one of the pre-eminent photojournalists of the 20th century. He began his career at age of 25 in his native Hungary. He worked for several publications in Europe as a freelancer for publications including Vu, Picture Post and Life magazine.

He immigrated to the United States in 1939, and his work appeared in a host of publications, including the New York Times, Look magazine and the Christian Science Monitor.

His portraits of Albert Einstein, Benito Mussolini, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Louis Armstrong, Winston Churchill and many others remain well-known throughout the western world.

"The portraits, especially those of historical figures, are astounding," said Joellen Adae, director of communications for the Yale University Art Gallery. "I think [Aigner's] family made a good decision to donate this material to galleries, where they will get a lot of exposure to the public."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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