Marvel at the poetic street scenes, Hollywood portraits, fashion photos, and images of war produced by more than 30 Hungarian-born artists who transformed photography in the 20th-century. Curated by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director and CEO Alex Nyerges, American, born Hungary: Kertész, Capa, and the Hungarian American Photographic Legacy examines the pioneering artistry that often emerged out of backdrops of persecution and perseverance.

American, born Hungary follows a remarkable number of émigrés and exiles from Hungary to Berlin and Paris and then on to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where they reinvented themselves and American photography. This exhibition is the first full examination of their circuitous journeys to the United States—in the aftermaths of two world wars and Hungary’s student-led revolt in 1956—and the wondrous artistic legacy that developed along the way.

More than 170 stunning, mesmerizing, and surreal photographs capture the unexpected beauty of fleeting shadows, gritty urban life, glamorous celebrities, and the broken promises of America. Included are works by notables such as André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkácsi, and György Kepes, along with less familiar names whose photos are instantly recognizable. One example is Robert Capa, a pioneer of modern photojournalism whose photos of Omaha Beach on D-Day are among the most famous of World War II.

Providing a missing chapter in art history, the exhibition’s focus is the astounding impact of Hungarian-born artists on photography in the United States, especially in urban centers. Highlights include photos by Moholy-Nagy, whose avant-garde beginnings in Dessau, Germany, inspired a “New Bauhaus” that sought to establish the Windy City as a design incubator; work by tailor and photographer John Albok, whose photographs were praised by the New York Times; and André de Dienes, whose portraits of cinema’s icons, including Marilyn Monroe, helped fuel Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Before opening at VMFA on October 5, American, born Hungary opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, on April 5, 2024, marking the grand opening of a newly renovated exhibition space at the museum. After its run at VMFA, the exhibition will travel to the George Eastman Museum, the International Museum of Photography and Film and the George Eastman House, in Rochester, New York, where it will open September 26, 2025.

DIRECTLY ABOVE One-Third of the Nation Lower East Side, ca. 1935, Arnold Eagle (American, born Hungary, 1909–1992), gelatin silver print. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 2014.170. © Arnold Eagle’s Estate 

Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Endowment
Julia Louise Reynolds Fund

André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation

Elizabeth Shelton Gottwald Fund
Mr. and Mrs. Charles N. Whitaker

Carol Ann Bischoff and Mike Regan
Nancy and Wayne Chasen
Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond
Anne and Gus Edwards
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Garner, Jr.
Dr. and Mrs. William V. Garner
Richard S. Reynolds Foundation
Virginia Sargeant Reynolds Foundation
Mary and Don Shockey

Kate and Matt Cooper
Birch Douglass
Gray-Nyerges Charitable Fund
James Ludwig and Cynthia Cobbs
Teri Craig Miles

Ann B. Carpenter | Drs. Ronald and Betty Neal Crutcher | Christopher English and Meda Lane | Tammy and Brian Jackson | Arnel Manalo | Nancy and Tom McCandlish | John McGurl and Michelle Gluck | Dr. and Mrs. Kent Minichiello | John and Michelle Nestler | Celia Rafalko and Rick Sample

Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund provided support for the exhibition catalogue

This list reflects sponsors as of June 3, 2024.

TOP OF PAGE Martinique, 1972, André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894–1985), gelatin silver print. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, 2018.206. Estate of André Kertész