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Portraits by Edward Steichen Opened at the National Portrait Gallery
Charlie Chaplin by Edward Jean Steichen Gelatin silver print 1925 Image: 24 x 19.5cm (9 7/16 x 7 11/16") Sheet: 25.2 x 20.1cm (9 15/16 x 7 15/16")
Mount: 29 x 24.7cm (11 7/16 x 9 3/4") Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16") National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired in memory of Agnes and Eugene Meyer through the generosity of Katharine Graham and the New York Community Trust, The Island Fund © The Estate of Edward Steichen / Joanna T. Steichen


WASHINGTON.-The National Portrait Gallery opened the exhibit Edward Steichen: Portraits through September 1. During his tenure as chief photographer for Condé Nast's Vanity Fair from 1923 to 1936, Edward Steichen created compelling portraits of many of that era's most celebrated personalities—from Charlie Chaplin to Franklin D. Roosevelt. With their sharpened focus, dramatic lighting and bold compositions, Steichen's sophisticated images captured the public's imagination and set a new standard for photographic portraiture. This exhibition, drawn exclusively from the National Portrait Gallery's collection of Steichen's photographs, will feature images from the years of his association with Vanity Fair as well as examples of Steichen's earlier portrait work. Ann Shumard, curator of photographs, is the curator of this exhibition.

Edward Steichen (March 27, 1879–March 25, 1973) was an American photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator, born in Bivange, Luxembourg. His family moved to the United States in 1881 and he became a naturalized citizen in 1900.

Having established himself as a fine art painter in the beginning of the 20th century, Steichen assumed the pictorialist approach in photography and proved himself a master of it. In 1905, Steichen helped create the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession with Alfred Stieglitz. After World War I, during which he commanded the photographic division of the American Expeditionary Forces, he reverted to straight photography, gradually moving into fashion photography. Steichen's 1928 photo of actress Greta Garbo is recognized as one of the definitive portraits of Garbo.

During World War II, he served as Director of the Naval Photographic Institute. His war documentary The Fighting Lady won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary. After the war, Steichen served until 1962 as the Director of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Among other accomplishments, Steichen is appreciated for creating The Family of Man in 1955, a vast exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art consisting of over 500 photos that depicted life, love and death in 68 countries. Steichen's brother-in-law, Carl Sandburg, wrote the introduction for the exhibition catalog (ISBN 0-8109-6169-5). As had been Steichen's wish, the exhibition was donated to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It is now permanently housed in the Luxembourg town of Clervaux.

A show of early color photographs by Steichen was held at Mudam Luxembourg from July 14 to September 3, 2007.

In February of 2006, a copy of Steichen's early pictorialist photograph, The Pond-Moonlight (1904), sold for the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction, U.S. $2.9 million.

Steichen took the photograph in Mamaroneck, New York near the home of his friend, art critic Charles Caffin. The photo features a wooded area and pond, with moonlight appearing between the trees and reflecting on the pond. While the print appears to be a color photograph, the first true color photographic process, the autochrome process, was not available until 1907. Steichen created the impression of color by manually applying layers of light-sensitive gums to the paper. In 1904, only a few photographers were using this experimental approach. Only three known versions of the Pond-Moonlight are still in existence and, as a result of the hand-layering of the gums, each is unique. In addition to the auctioned print, the other two versions are held in museum collections. The extraordinary sale price of the print is, in part, attributable to its one-of-a-kind character and to its rarity.







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