In Focus: Photographs from the O’Neil Collection

Chan Chao, "Karenni GIrl," 1997, Chromogenic print, Frame Dimension: 39 x 25 in. (99.1 x 63.5 cm), In memory of the Honorable John Normandy Reynolds and his wife Ann McMenamin Reynolds, 2021.29.8
 Chan Chao, "Karenni GIrl," 1997, Chromogenic print, Frame Dimension: 39 x 25 in. (99.1 x 63.5 cm), In memory of the Honorable John Normandy Reynolds and his wife Ann McMenamin Reynolds, 2021.29.8,


In Focus: Photographs from the O’Neil Collection

At the Delamar West Hartford

This winter, the NBMAA presents two exhibitions inspired by a major donation of important contemporary photographs by Baltimore-based collectors Nancy and Tom O’Neil: Edward Burtynsky: Earth Observed (November 17, 2022-April 16, 2023) and In Focus: Photographs from the O’Neil Collection (December 8, 2022-July 2023).

Donated to the NBMAA in 2019 and 2021, the O’Neils’ gift encompasses 32 works by leading photographers and is one of the most significant donations of artwork received by the NBMAA in its history. Among the photographers represented are Edward Burtynsky (b. 1955), David Maisel (1961), Ben Marcin (b. 1958), Abelardo Morell (b. 1948), Matthew Pillsbury (b. 1973), Rocky Schenck (b. 1955), Brian Schutmaat (b. 1983), Fazal Sheikh (b. 1965), George Tice (b. 1938), and Brian Ulrich (b. 1971).

Select works from the gift have been showcased in permanent collection installations at the Museum; however, this year, the NBMAA is thrilled to present two major concurrent exhibitions inspired by and drawn from their extensive donation. On view through April 16, 2023, Edward Burtynsky: Earth Observed showcases 40 years of work by leading contemporary photographer Edward Burtynsky and is the largest retrospective of his photographs in the US in 20 years. Comprising examples from nearly every series he has produced, the show features six iconic works that were gifted to the NBMAA by the O’Neil Family, and which provided the catalyst for the show. Earth Observed includes works from the O’Neil family collection, as well as their gifts to additional institutions, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Hood Museum of Art, and Middlebury College Museum of Art. The exhibition celebrates and honors the O’Neils’ patronage; the immeasurable impact of Burtynsky’s work in engaging with important societal issues; as well as the aerial photography movement that he has helped to pioneer.

Now through June 4, In Focus: Photographs from the O’Neil Collection is on view at the Delamar Hotel in West Hartford, Connecticut. This installation represents the newest exhibition in a series of curated shows that the NBMAA has presented for the hotel since 2016. Featured throughout the first and second floors are significant works by Abelardo Morell (b. 1948) and Richard Kagan (b. 1945), whose innovative depictions of landscapes and interiors showcase diverse photographic techniques and transport one’s imagination. Works by George Tice (b. 1938) highlight the photographer’s mastery and wide range of quintessentially American subject matter. Finally, captivating portraits and scenes by Fazal Sheikh (b. 1965), Chan Chao (b. 1966), Ben Marcin (b. 1958), Johnathan Anderson (b. 1961) and Edwin Low (b. 1957) offer poignant views of humanity around the world.

Donor Tom O’Neil remarks that, “Particularly in the field of contemporary photography, a collection with depth as well as breadth promotes a more enriching experience for the audience while serving as a powerful catalyst for impactful scholarship. We’ve been so fortunate to be able to accompany many of these exceptional artists through multiple chapters of their careers, forging lifelong friendships along the way. As we explored the mission and the vision of the NBMAA, and came to appreciate its steadfast commitment to education and inclusive community engagement, we decided it was the perfect home for these works. We never imagined that these two shows would be mounted so quickly, particularly on the heels of a global pandemic. We are deeply grateful that the NBMAA has honored these exceptional artists with such thoughtful and beautifully curated exhibitions.”


About the O'Neil Family:

The O’Neils began collecting photography several decades ago and built their holdings strategically. From the outset, the goal was to place in permanent museum collections representative selections from important photographers. In February 2014, the Baltimore Museum of Art announced a gift of 24 images, and later that year, the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth announced a gift of 39 photographs. Following a gift to the Middlebury College Art Museum, the O’Neils, who have strong Connecticut and New England roots, decided to work with the NBMAA to strengthen its permanent photography collection. Gifts in 2019 and 2021 included a total of 32 works. Edward Burtynsky: Earth Observed and In Focus: Photographs from the O’Neil Collection will include works from their gifts as well as their family collection.