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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

American, 1911 - 2006
Old Glory Goes Up on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima
Gelatin silver print

Image: 3 9/16 x 4 5/16 inches
Sheet: 3 5/8 x 4 1/2 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of the Kevin and Lesley Lilly Family

Arts of North America

On February 23, 1945, veteran newspaper journalist Joe Rosenthal captured five United States Marines and one United States Navy Corpsman as they raised the American flag on Iwo Jima island in Japan. His photograph remains one of the best-known images of World War II's Pacific War. As the editors of U.S. Camera Magazine wrote, "In that moment, Rosenthal's camera recorded the soul of a nation."
After hearing that the initial flag raised was going to be replaced with a larger one, Rosenthal chose to follow the second team to the top of Mount Suribachi volcano to cover the event. Using a 4x5 field camera and not entirely ready for the initial jerk of the flagpole upward, he took a frame from his hip, anyway. The shot he thought he had missed became an American icon before he had ever seen the resulting image. Rosenthal's photograph of the flag being raised would soon grace the cover of almost every major newspaper, helping to lift human spirits in a time of war.
Old Glory Goes Up on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima won the Pulitzer Prize and was immortalized in the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. It has been the subject of poems, stamps, tattoos, and a major motion picture; has been reenacted at homecomings; has been re-created in Lego bricks; and has been interpreted as yard art. Few images in the history of photography have enjoyed such a full and varied life.

To view specific works by Rosenthal in the collection, contact the museum's Works on Paper Study Center for an appointment.