Press Releases Index

April 18, 2005
CONTACT: Jette Englund
908-737-NEWS (6397)

Photographer Guillermo Thorn's Photos of Victorian New Jersey
On Exhibit in Kean University Art Gallery

Kean University Press Publishes Book on Day of University's 150th Anniversary

UNION, N.J. ––A collection of photos by Guillermo Thorn (1837-1920) of Victorian-era bathers at the Jersey Shore, men fishing off the pier in Asbury Park, the picturesque downtown Plainfield, churches, schools, and popular attractions of the resorts of Ocean Grove and Cape May, is now on view in the Kean University Art Gallery in the Center for Academic Success Building on the main campus at 1000 Morris Avenue in Union, N.J. The exhibit, Victorian New Jersey: Photographs by Guillermo Thorn from the Kean University Collection, coincides with the publication of a 160-page fully illustrated book of the same title published by Kean University Press on April 14, the University’s 150th anniversary. The book’s historical and technical contents are written by professors Frank J. Esposito, Ph.D., and Donald Lokuta, Ph.D, and the exhibit is curated by gallery director Neil Tetkowski, who is also a professor in Kean’s School of Visual and Performing Arts.

In 1987, Eleanor Thorn Stone of Stonington, Maine, wrote to Esposito, describing a collection of important and original photographs made in New Jersey during the late 19th century. Kean University acquired more than 300 original photographs, stereo views and glass negatives, and they are now part of the New Jersey Collection at Kean’s Nancy Thompson Library. This is the earliest known collection of late 19th-century life in New Jersey – life of the average New Jerseyan. “Thorn was among the most important New Jersey photographers of the 19th century, and we’re anxious to share this wonderful collection with the public,” said Tetkowski. The show is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. until May 20.

“Thorn worked from the early 1850s to1910, a time when photography was truly a new art form. For most of his career he lived in Plainfield. Yet, unlike many of his contemporaries, Thorn took great pleasure in working beyond the confines of rigid portrait poses in an indoor studio. Whenever possible, he traveled the countryside, documented the natural landscape of New Jersey and the lives of ordinary citizens involved in pleasant activities of the Victorian age,” Tetkowski said. “Among his favorite scenes were people at the seaside, rural landscapes, regional celebrations and local architecture. Guillermo Thorn created artful images that reveal a remarkable sensitivity.

This exhibition provides us with a special window into the world of Guillermo Thorn, a distant time early in our American legacy.” Born in Durham, N.Y., in 1837, Thorn died at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, on March 3, 1920.

“Thorn was an adventurous man,” Esposito said. “In his early years as a photographer, he used the summer months to travel by wagon throughout the countryside, making pictures of scenic views. During the third quarter of the 19th century, it required an extraordinary effort to make photographs outside the comfort of the studio.”

“The photographs of Thorn are of significant historical importance,” said Lokuta, who is an accomplished photographer himself. “There were only a few photographers who, like Thorn, moved out of their studios to extensively document our country more than 100 years ago.”

For more information, please call Jette Englund, university relations specialist, or visit the Web site at to view a selection of the photographs. A limited supply of the first edition of the book, ISBN 0-9765907-0-0, is available at the Kean University bookstore that can be reached at (908) 737-5230.