Steichen, Edward, 1879-1973

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1879-03-27
Death 1973-03-25
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was a photographer from New York, N.Y.

From the description of Oral history interview with Edward Steichen, 1970 June 5 [sound recording]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 495596733

Photographer; New York, N.Y.

From the description of Edward Steichen interviews, 1970 June 5. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 220190470

Edward Steichen was born in 1879 in Luxembourg and immigrated to the United States in 1882, settling in Michigan with his family. Steichen's artistic career began at the age of 15 when he commenced an apprenticeship at the American Fine Art Company in Milwaukee, WI. Though he enjoyed painting, Steichen's biggest passion was photography, and after collaborating with photographer Alfred Stieglitz he ventured into color photography, becoming one of the first US photographers to use the Lumiere Autochrome process. Steichen used his talents in the military in WWI taking aerial photography. This experience led him to vow to focus only on realist photography henceforth, seeing photography not as an art but as a window into the world of man. Steichen worked as a commercial photographer before again doing military work during WWII, after which he became director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. It was here that he organized his famous exhibit The Family of Man. Having achieved much fame and success for his photographs during his lifetime, Steichen passed away in 1973 in Connecticut. Biographical Source: Spartacus Educational, http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAPsteichen.htm [accessed 18 April 2008].

From the description of Edward Steichen Papers 1930. (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 456170519

American photographer.

From the description of Edward Steichen photographs, 1942-1945. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754868231

Photographer.

From the description of Edward Steichen interview, 1954. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122502769

The Edward Steichen Archive was established in MoMA's Department of Photography in 1968. According to the Museum's then-Director René d'Harnoncourt, "The function of the archive will be to collect, catalog and supervise the use of research materials that will amplify and clarify the meaning of Steichen's contribution to the art of photography, and to modern art generally ..." He noted that it was designed to complement Steichen's work in various media in the Museum context, "where it could be studied in proximity to the Museums rich collection of works by Steichen and by many other artists with whom he has been most closely associated."

The Archive was created by Grace M. Mayer, who began her career in the Department of Photography as Assistant to the Director in 1959, and became Curator of Photography in 1962. She retired in 1968, returning to serve as Curator of the Edward Steichen Archive until the mid-1980s. As well as seeking, amassing, and organizing materials by, about, and related to Edward Steichen from individuals, institutions, and published sources, she created detailed card catalogues of various groups of these materials. These are now housed in The Grace M. Mayer Papers (see Series IV).

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was a major figure in the evolution of American photography and exhibition design. Having begun his artistic career as a painter, he was later a founding photographer of the Photo-Secession group, together with Gertrude Kasebier, Clarence White, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and Alfred Stieglitz. With Stieglitz, he first exhibited European "modern art" at Gallery 291 in New York City, and published the seminal journal Camera Work.

During World War I, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a photographer, leading the aerial reconnaissance division in France. In 1923, he began a 15-year career at Condé Nast, serving eventually as Chief Photographer and creating iconic portraits of politicians, actors, and socialites for publications including Vogue and Vanity Fair. He was also a prolific breeder of delphiniums, some of which he exhibited at MoMA in 1936, and served as President of the American Delphinium Society.

Recalled to service during World War II, he formed the U.S. Navy's photographic division and also organized the exhibitions Road to Victory (1942) and Power in the Pacific (1945) at MoMA, utilizing innovative forms of design and layout. His patriotic film The Fighting Lady received the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1945.

In 1947, he succeeded Beaumont Newhall as Director of MoMA's Department of Photography. During his tenure he organized more than 40 exhibitions, including the legendary The Family of Man (1955), one of the most popular and well-attended exhibitions the Museum ever presented both at MoMA and in its traveling versions. He attended its opening in Moscow in 1959, together with his friend and brother-in-law, poet Carl Sandburg, who had assisted in the exhibition's design and written some of its accompanying text.

His final exhibition at MoMA, Steichen the Photographer, marked his retirement in 1962, after which he devoted his professional attention to the documentation, in still photographs and later in moving images, of a single tree on his Connecticut property. Throughout his life he was the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, culminating in the Presidential Medal of Freedom which he was nominated for by John F. Kennedy and received from Lyndon Johnson in 1963.

Edward Steichen is the subject of many extensive biographies, and researchers are referred to these and others for more detailed examinations of all aspects of his long life. A chronology of dates relevant to information and items in the Edward Steichen Archive is also provided below.

From the description of Edward Steichen archive, 1880-1996 (bulk 1880-1986). (Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)). WorldCat record id: 757828790

Biographical/Historical Note

American photographer.

From the guide to the Edward Steichen photographs, 1942-1945, (Hoover Institution Archives)

Edward Steichen was born in 1879 in Luxembourg and immigrated to the United States in 1882, settling in Michigan with his family. Steichen's artistic career began at the age of 15 when he commenced an apprenticeship at the American Fine Art Company in Milwaukee, WI. Though he enjoyed painting, Steichen's biggest passion was photography, and after collaborating with photographer Alfred Stieglitz he ventured into color photography, becoming one of the first US photographers to use the Lumiere Autochrome process. Steichen used his talents in the military in WWI taking aerial photography. This experience led him to vow to focus only on realist photography henceforth, seeing photography not as an art but as a window into the world of man. Steichen worked as a commercial photographer before again doing military work during WWII, after which he became director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. It was here that he organized his famous exhibit The Family of Man . Having achieved much fame and success for his photographs during his lifetime, Steichen passed away in 1973 in Connecticut.

Biographical Source: Spartacus Educational, http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAPsteichen.htm [accessed 18 April 2008]

From the guide to the Edward Steichen Papers, 1930, (University of Minnesota Libraries Children's Literature Research Collections [clrc])

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Subjects:

  • World War, 1939-1945--Aerial operations
  • Racism
  • World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations
  • World War, 1939-1945--Pictorial works
  • Photography--History--20th century--Sources
  • Photographers
  • Photographers--History--Sources
  • Photography
  • Civil rights
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns
  • Painters--History--Sources
  • Painting, American--20th century--Sources
  • Photographers--Interviews
  • Photography, Artistic
  • World War, 1939-1945 Campaigns Pacific Ocean
  • Photographs as information resources
  • Art museum curators--History--Sources

Occupations:

  • Photographers
  • Art museum directors

Places:

  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pacific Ocean (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)