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View, “In Concert: Photography and the Violin,” at the Art Museum of WVU this spring

The introduction wall for "In Concert" at the Art Museum of WVU. The wall features a gallery of photos from different time periods

A major exhibition at the Art Museum of West Virginia University this spring explores society’s relationship with the violin and its meanings over time and across the globe.

For nearly the entire history of the medium, violins have appeared in photographs in ways that signify talent, status, geography, and culture—and have often been presented as beautiful objects unto themselves.

“In Concert: Photography and the Violin,” features 250 original photographs on loan from Pittsburgh-based collector Evan Mirapaul, who began his relationship with the violin in second grade.

A gallery wall of images sits in front of two benches in a gallery at the Art Museum of WVU

A native of Akron, Ohio, where there was a pilot program for the Suzuki violin-training method, Mirapaul took lessons as a child in hopes of making new friends. As an adult, Mirapaul became a professional concert violinist who performed with the Pittsburgh and Montreal symphonies, and co-founded the New York-based Elements Quartet.

Mirapaul began collecting photography when he acquired the estate of musicians Sam and Sylvia Spinak in 1989. After a move to New York in the 1990s, Mirapaul realized that photographs from the Spinak Estate could grow into something much bigger. 

A view of the exhibition, "In Concert" at the Art Museum of WVU.

Mirapaul starting adding photographs featuring violins to his collection that would eventually span the history of photography from the 1840s to today, with examples of nearly every photographic process and by both professional and amateur photographers.

“In Concert: Photography and the Violin,” offers visitors the opportinity to see pictures of world-famous violinists, including Fritz Kreisler, Isaac Stern, Jascha Heifetz, and Yehudi Menuhin. Noted photographers featured in the exhibition include Julia Margaret Cameron, Andre Kertesz, Dorothea Lange, Irving Penn, Yousuf Karsh, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Some other familiar faces can be seen in “In Concert: Photography and the Violin,” including a disheveled Albert Einstein, sitting at a music stand in a suit with his shirttails out while practicing with his violin. A video montage features clips of several films that feature violins, with examples from the 1930s up to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

A picture of a man playing violin hangs in the Art Museum of WVU

“There is something for everyone in this exhibition, whether or not you are a musician or a photographer,” said Todd J. Tubutis, director of the Art Museum. “You’ll find pictures of Appalachian fiddle players, of string quartets, of children learning to play, and even celebrities in films and performing on stage. It is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind assemblage of rare and iconic photographs that we are truly fortunate to be exhibiting at WVU.”

“In Concert: Photography and the Violin,” is on view at the Art Museum of WVU through May 14. The museum is open Thursday - Sunday, 12:30 - 6 p.m. For more information and to plan your trip, visit

“In Concert: Photography and the Violin,” is organized by Dan Leers, curator of photography at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. The exhibition is presented with support from the Brown Fund for the Art Museum of WVU.