WPI Dept. Head is Curator of Major Spanish Photography Exhibit

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WORCESTER, Mass. Lee Fontanella of Worcester, Mass., head of WPI's Humanities and Arts Department, is the curator of an exhibit of the work of the most important photographer to work in Spain in the 19th century.

"Un fotgrafo en la Espaa de Isabel II: Charles Clifford" ("A Photographer in the Spain of Isabella II") opens Nov. 20 at Madrid's Museo Espaol de Arte Contemporneo. Fontanella, who has studied Clifford's work for more than a decade, was commissioned by the Spanish government to act as curator and to write the accompanying catalog. He also designed the exhibit space and composed the wall plaques. He will be in Madrid from Nov. 14 to Nov. 24 to direct the hanging of the exhibit and for new interviews. He is currently writing a book (expected to be published next year) about the photographer.

A widely published scholar in 19th century Spanish studies and photography, Fontanella came to WPI in 1993 from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a professor and head of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. He holds a bachelor's degree from Williams College, a master's degree from New York University and a master's and doctorate from Princeton University.

Charles Clifford (1819-1863), who was born in South Wales, first went to Spain as an "aeronaut of aerostatic balloons," from which he attempted daguerreotypes to make aerial perspectives of urban sites. Then, while he photographed on waxed-paper negatives Spanish monuments and the architecture of Madrid, of the North and the Northwest, and of Granada and Sevilla in the South, he also ingratiated himself among members of the nobility and ultimately became the photographer of the public works sponsored by the crown, including the five-year construction of the waterworks that brought water into Madrid from a distant reservoir. He is most remembered as the photographer who traveled with the Spanish Royal Family and made a visual chronicle of their official journeys in the fall of 1860 and 1862. By the time of his death he had made hundreds of images on waxed-paper negatives and wet-collodion glass-plate negatives.

Fontanella has added an innovative twist to the exhibit: the role that Clifford's wife, Jane, played in his photographic undertakings"scrambles," Clifford called themand the news of how she carried on after his death in an atmosphere of commercial competition and in relation to the Spanish Crown and the South Kensington Museum.

The 124 photographs in the exhibit come from private collectors and galleries in the United States, England and Spain, and from the Konstmuseum of Gteborg, Sweden, the Boston Public Library, the Gilman Paper Company, Spain's National Library, the Harry Ranson Humanities Reseearch Center, the University of Texas at Austin, Madrid's Naval Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Patrimony of La Alhambra and the Generalife, and the Royal Society of Bath. It is in these and in over a score of other collections that Fontanella has carried out his research on Clifford over the yearsthus making it possible for him to select the best and rarest images for the show. Some of the images in the exhibit are unique, as is the one extant daguerrotype by Clifford and certain of the albums he made.