African American Studies at Beinecke Library

New Exhibition: Living Portraits

Posted in Uncategorized by beineckepoetry on April 17, 2009

Living Portraits: Carl Van Vechten’s Color Photographs of African Americans, 1939-1964 features some 140 never-before-exhibited color photographs by Carl Van Vechten. Van Vechten (1880-1964) had an artistic vision rooted in the centrality of the talented person. He cherished accomplishment, whether in music, dance, theater, fine art, literature, sport, or advocacy.

He began to make photographic portraits in 1932; in 1939 he discovered newly available color film. For a quarter century, he invited friends and acquaintances, well-known artists and fledgling entertainers to sit for him, often against backdrops reminiscent of the vivid colors and patterns of a Matisse painting. Among his subjects were a very young Diahann Carroll, Billie Holiday in tears, Paul Robeson as Othello, and a procession of opera stars, composers, authors, musicians, and others who made notable contributions to the cultural life of the country. The exhibition includes 140 full-sized portraits, digitally reformatted from Van Vechten’s original slides. [ca. 140 items]
Selected images from the Carl Van Vechten Photograph Collection

Living Portraits: Carl Van Vechten’s Color Photographs of African Americans, 1939-1964 is on view from April 30 through June 30, 2009. For more information: 203-432-2969

Images above: Diahann CarrollPaul Robeson , Billie Holiday, and Pearl Bailey photographed by Carl Van Vechten. Photographs by Carl Van Vechten are used with permission of the Van Vechten Trust; the permission of the Trust is required to reprint or use Van Vechten photographs in any way. To contact the Trust email: Van Vechten Trust.

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