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Center for Women's History features Editta Sherman's photographs
Editta Sherman (1912–2013), Kim Hunter, 1955. Gelatin silver print. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Melisande Sherman.

NEW YORK, NY.- The New-York Historical Society celebrates the late photographer Editta Sherman (1912–2013) with a special exhibition of her celebrity portraits, to be shown in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery in the Museum’s new Center for Women’s History. On view from August 18 – October 15, 2017, The Duchess of Carnegie Hall: Photographs by Editta Sherman features portraits of 65 notable film stars, authors, musicians, and athletes dating from 1943 to 1965 and beyond. All works are drawn from the Editta Sherman archive, which was recently gifted to New-York Historical by Sherman’s children and grandchildren.

A friend and muse to legendary photographer Bill Cunningham who dubbed her the “Duchess of Carnegie Hall,” Editta Sherman was renowned in her own right as one of the rare female portraitists of her era. Practically born in the dark room as the daughter of a professional photographer, she built a thriving business over more than 60 years in a studio above Carnegie Hall, where she charmed her celebrity clients with a vivacity and warmth that are reflected in her images.

“New-York Historical is proud to showcase highlights from our Editta Sherman archive in the new Center for Women’s History, offering a look at New York’s creative legacy through the eyes of a vibrant female artist,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society.

“Editta Sherman’s remarkable career as a photographer came at a time when the field was dominated by men,” said Marilyn Satin Kushner, curator and head of New-York Historical’s Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections. “Her experience and success exemplify that of many women in the 1940s through the 1960s, living in a man’s world while supporting herself independently.”

The Duchess of Carnegie Hall will include portraits of actors such as Yul Brynner, best known for his starring role in The King and I; Kim Hunter, who won the Academy Award for playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire; and Canada Lee, whose many triumphs on stage included the starring role in Orson Welles’ adaptation of Richard Wright’s novel Native Son. Notable authors photographed by Sherman include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Pearl Buck; playwright Lillian Hellman; and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn author Betty Smith. Other luminaries include “The Yankee Clipper,” Joe DiMaggio; country music star June Carter Cash; and pianist and composer Donald Shirley, who was Sherman’s neighbor in the Carnegie Hall studios.

The exhibition charts the full stretch of her career, which began in 1943 when her husband Harold became ill and had to leave his job. The couple decided to turn Editta’s photography hobby into a vocation to support their growing family. Harold ventured out, first on Martha’s Vineyard and then in New York City, seeking sitters as Editta became a celebrity photographer. Although they were constantly worried about food and lodging, they were able to hold it all together until Harold died in 1954. Editta had to rely on his contacts and tirelessly drummed up business until she developed her own network. She once remarked, “The general feeling at that time was that women were amateurs, no matter how well-known you were. So I would try to look older, and very professional.”

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