The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston is an examination of the life and work of the artist widely considered to be the father of color photography. William Eggleston was born in 1939 and grew up in the Mississippi Delta town of Sumner. His innovative 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York helped establish color photography as an artistic medium and has inspired photographers and artists around the world. Eggleston's work is held in major international museum collections and has been shown at more than one hundred solo exhibitions worldwide and published in ninety portfolios, monographs, and exhibition catalogs. The catalog contains fifty-five Eggleston photographs, thirty-six that were featured in The Beautiful Mysterious exhibition at the University of Mississippi Museum from September 2016 to February 2017. Eggleston's longtime friend William Ferris, a celebrated folklorist, donated all the photographs to the Museum. The photographs range from 1962 into the 1980s, representing each of Eggleston's projects during that time. Some of the photographs are inscribed with Eggleston's rare handwritten notes about location, people, dates, and projects. Eight of Eggleston's early dye transfers are in the collection. Many of these works had not been on public display before this exhibition, including black-and-white images that are unique-copy single prints. The text contains transcriptions of a symposium on the exhibition and seven essays, offering insights about Eggleston's life and work by family and friends as well as by photographers, artists, curators, art historians, and authors.
The collection holdings at the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses total over 20,000 artworks and cultural heritage artifacts, representing multiple continents and millennia. The Museum is steward of the largest collection of Greek and Roman antiquities in the southern United States and also manages Rowan Oak, the National Historic Landmark home of novelist William Faulkner. Ann J. Abadie was associate director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi from 1979 to 2011. She is coeditor of thirty-eight volumes in the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Series and associate editor of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and The Mississippi Encyclopedia.