Antoin Sevruguin: Past and Present

A Special Exhibition

April 1–December 23, 2021

The OI Museum explores the changing world of late nineteenth-century Iran through the gaze of one of its most renowned photographers.

On April 1st, the OI Museum will open a special exhibition, “Antoin Sevruguin: Past and Present,” featuring the late nineteenth-century photographs of Antoin Sevruguin. This exhibition, curated by Tasha Vorderstrasse, will present to the public for the first time the OI Museum’s collection of over 150 photographic prints attributed primarily to this acclaimed photographer of Qajar Iran. The exhibit will run through December 2021.

Sevruguin Negative number: 618 (P. 1131 / N. 23667) (above) and 1230 (P. 1201 / N. 24519) (right)

Antoin Sevruguin's Photographic Prints

The work of the Armenian-Iranian photographer Antoin Sevruguin (ca. 1851–1933) captures changing life in Iran, as documented in a wide range of subjects, at the end of the nineteenth century as the country stood at the cusp of modernity. In contrast to his Western contemporaries who in the Orientalist tradition focused primarily on documenting traditional Iran and the ruins of its glorious past, Sevruguin sought to capture this shift to the modern age. His innovative use of light, shadow, and perspective also set him apart and brought a sense of individuality and humanity to his work.

Sevruguin, like other Qajar photographers, used the albumen process, a method of producing a photographic paper print first invented in 1847 and which became widespread in the second half of the 19th century. The OI's collection was acquired by the then Haskell Oriental Museum of the University of Chicago in 1901 from a former Protestant missionary in Iran, Mary Clarke. A selection of the original prints is displayed alongside printed reproductions and digital projections. The exhibit also celebrates the conservation of the full collection of original prints, thanks to generous funding by the American Institute of Iranian Studies.

Yassaman Ameri, from the series "The Inheritance," detail of no. 36. (above) and no. 33 (right)

Yassaman Ameri's The Inheritance

An additional focus of the exhibition is the lasting impact of Sevruguin’s unique vision, as demonstrated by the work of Iranian-Canadian artist Yassaman Ameri. Using Qajar photography to investigate her own personal history in a series entitled The Inheritance, Ameri’s work shows how the past and the present can come together to create unique artworks that speak across generations. Exhibited are seven pieces from The Inheritance.

Yassaman Ameri is a photographer and multimedia artist. She grew up in Iran and came to Canada after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Her work to date focuses thematically on notions of home and exile, as well as on the constructed nature of history. Ameri's work has been exhibited at the Leighton House Museum in London, Espace Electra in Paris, Mekic Gallery in Montreal, Centre d'histoire de Montréal, and is part of the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Sevruguin Negative number: 505 (P. 1142 / N. 23645) (above) and (P. 1102 / N. 23689) (right)

Visit the Museum and the Special Exhibit 

We have adopted health and safety protocols under the guidance of the University of Chicago and developed in conjunction with UChicago Medicine in order to promote a safe and enjoyable experience when visiting us. 

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Guided Tour

During your visit, take a self-guided tour of "Antoin Sevruguin: Past and Present" with our OI Mobile App.

Exhibit Virtual Programming

An assortment of virtual offerings will complement the in-person exhibit, including online feature exhibits, gallery talks, and lectures. Please check back for regular updates. 

Exhibit Virtual Tour: 

Antoin Sevruguin: Past and Present | A Special Exhibit at the OI Museum

Online Gallery Talks: 

"Antoin Sevruguin: 'photographies artistiques,'" with Delphine Poinsot April 27, 5:00pm

"Antoin Sevruguin in the Context of Russian Culture in the Caucasus," with Polina Kasian, May 19, 5:00pm

"Capturing Persepolis—From the Camera to the Canvas," with Kiersten Neumann, July 20, 5:00pm

"The Inheritance & The Artist," with Yassaman Ameri, December 7, 5:00 pm CST

Recorded Talks Available for Streaming: 

Exhibition Opening Lecture, "Intentionality and Sevruguin," with Tasha Vorderstrasse

April Gallery Talk: "Antoin Sevruguin: 'photographies artistiques,'" with Delphine Poinsot

"The Inheritance & The Artist," with Yassaman Ameri

Virtual Exhibit

Antoin Sevruguin: Past and Present – Virtual Exhibit

Exhibit Catalogue

Antoin Sevruguin: Past and Present (OIMP 40) publishes for the first time the OI Museum's complete collection of nineteenth-century Iranian photographs and includes a series of essays that investigate Sevruguin’s life and photographic career, as well as the lasting impact of his unique vision.

Available for Download & Purchase

The publication of Antoin Sevruguin: Past and Present (OIMP 40) was made possible by a generous grant from the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund, the American Institute of Iranian Studies, and the Knights of Vartan Fund for Armenian Studies and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research. The generous grant from the American Institute of Iranian studies also funded the conservation of the albumen prints.