Esteemed Photographer Helen Levitt Honored with Endowment Fund and Promised Gift of Photographs to Metropolitan Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today a new endowment fund and promised gift of artwork in memory of the great American street photographer Helen Levitt, who died on March 29, 2009, at the age of 95. The Helen Levitt Memorial Fund has been established through a generous planned gift of the artist’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Robert O. Levitt, and will support the Museum’s acquisition of photographs by Helen Levitt and other mid-20th-century American photographers working in her tradition. Mrs. Robert O. Levitt has also made a promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of 12 of the artist’s photographs.
Helen Levitt


“Helen Levitt was singular in her lyrical style of photography and her ability to capture the hidden poetry of everyday street life in New York City,” noted Thomas P.
Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum. “The endowment fund and promised gift from Mrs. Robert O. Levitt are wonderful tributes to Helen Levitt’s achievements as an artist and her important place in the history of 20th-century photography.”

“It is a great pleasure to honor my sister-in-law with the establishment of the Helen Levitt Memorial Fund at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” commented Mrs. Robert O. Levitt. “It is my hope that others will join me in ensuring that Helen’s photographs and those of her fellow artists will be well represented in the Museum’s collection.”

Born in Brooklyn in 1913, Helen Levitt lived her entire life in New York City and photographed her city with a hand-held 35mm camera from the mid 1930s to the late 1980s. The quintessential urban street photographer, she was influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans.

With her dedication to the creative visual language of the urban experience—especially the rich street life found on stoops and street corners in upper Manhattan—Levitt broke new ground. Best remembered for her photographs of children at play in the city, Levitt’s body of work exhibits a remarkable blend of grace, humanity, levity, and intelligence.

A major retrospective of Helen Levitt’s work was presented at the Metropolitan Museum in 1992. The Museum currently has in its collection 43 of the artist’s photographs. To celebrate Levitt’s life and work, a selection of a dozen of her photographs from the Metropolitan’s collection will be on view in the Museum’s
Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery from May 11 through August 30, 2009.

Metropolitan Museum of Art