Edward Steichen
 
  • Introduction

  • CV

  • Exhibitions

  • Publications

"A splash of Photo History Comes to Light" – The New York Times

The lost prints

The Story of a Rediscovery

Around 1982-83, Joanna T. Steichen commissioned editions from Edward Steichen’s estate. Along with George Tice, Steichen’s legendary printer and assistant, she sorted through more than 2000 negatives to make a selection of 61 images that best represent Steichen’s body of work. Thus, a unique edition was created with a print run of 100 (+ 32 Artist Proofs). George Tice produced prints in Steichen’s tradition: on archival quality baryta paper and individually adjusted in tonality and impression to suit the images. After approximately two years of work, all of the prints were signed by Joanna T. Steichen and George Tice. Only a few of the prints found their way to buyers, perhaps because the idea was too advanced for a photography market that had not yet developed to today’s level. The project’s financial backer, an art aficionado, kept the unsold pictures. Thus, the majority of the edition was largely considered to be lost. LUMAS discovered the prints in one of the financer’s art depots – in absolutely perfect condition! Now LUMAS is very pleased to exclusively offer these authorized treasures of photographic history, which have only recently been made available.

Edward Steichen (1879–1973)

Edward Steichen’s photographs are iconic in 20th century photo and art history. Steichen was at home in all areas of photography: portrait, landscape, still life, fashion, dance, theater, flowers, advertising, as well as war reportage and aerial photography. Steichen was also a painter. Originally from Luxembourg, Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz founded the legendary Photo Secession group in 1902 and actively participated in the pioneering magazine, Camera Work. Joanna T. Steichen explains that after World War I, Steichen even played with the idea of becoming a film director. Perhaps that explains why, in subsequent years, he introduced movement as a fundamental innovation in much of his photography. What is also unique and exciting about Steichen is how he managed – committed only to quality and the joy of experimentation – to create milestone images of the 20th century that were also commercial. Starting in 1923, his magical use of light and movement, of figures and accessories, produced legendary, entrancing photos for Vanity Fair and Vogue, thereby inventing fashion photography as we know it today. He was the Director of Photography from 1947–1962 at the Museum of Modern Art New York, and in 1955, he organized the epoch-making exhibition “The Family of Man.” During its international tour, the exhibition was seen by over 10 million people – an attendance record rarely reached, even today. Steichen died in 1973 in West Redding, Connecticut. In February 2006, Edward Steichen’s hand-colored print, The Pond-Moonlight, was auctioned in New York for approximately $2.9 Million – at that time the highest bid ever placed for a photograph. Works from the LUMAS “The Lost Prints” series have already been auctioned at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for as much as $4,800. The selection of photographs for the LUMAS edition embodies the spectrum of Steichen’s work. Many classic, internationally recognized images are also part of the selection. The result is a so-called “Best of Steichen” series that, as a whole, makes an exquisite museum exhibition. Representative groups include famous portraits (like those of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Eugene O’Neill, and Rudolf Valentino), landscapes and urban photographs (including Bryant Park Breadline, New York City, and George Washington Bridge), still lifes, nudes, and Steichen’s inimitable photographs of flowers. The compilation brings Steichen’s entire visual universe before our eyes.

The Prints

George Tice, Steichen’s longtime assistant and printer, was detail-oriented, and responsible for the quality and approach of the reproductions. Quality and approach? For starters, the prints are of a quality seldom found today. Second, Tice and Joanna T. Steichen determined – with great intuition, faithfulness to the work, and a discerning eye – which images on which paper and with which tone would produce the best results. Another valuable characteristic of this edition is that different papers that were still available on the market in the early 80s were selected according to the image: Kodak Ektalure, Agfa Brovira, Agfa Portriga Rapid or Oriental Seagull, Ilford Galerie. And wherever appropriate, the prints were provided with a light tone to strengthen the effect of the image.

Book and Exhibition

In October 2007, the first European retrospective went on tour to various museums: Jeu de Paume in Paris, Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Kunsthaus Zürich, Palazzo Magnani in Reggio Emilia, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid – these were the first stops of the journey that would finally make this great figure known in Europe. In October of 2007, the German art publisher Hatje Cantz would also publish a large Steichen book with contributions from international authors inviting a profound examination of his life and work.

Steichen’s Beginnings

Joanna T. Steichen describes the beginning of Steichen’s career as a fashion photographer and art director at Vogue and Vanity Fair: “Before the turn of the century, Steichen photographed by natural light, both sun and moon. In 1923, he went to work for Condé Nast as chief photographer on Vogue and Vanity Fair. For his first Condé Nast sitting, he walked into a studio equipped with an electrician and batteries of electric lights. The electrician waited for directions. Steichen, always a master of the authoritative bluff, walked about for a few minutes in silence, apparently designing his picture. In fact, he was pondering the dilemma of artificial light. He knew nothing about its use in photography. So he instructed the electrician to remove all the lights except one, which he proceeded to use through the filter of a sheet, as if it were a natural light source. He reported that the Condé Nast staff buzzed in admiration at this novel and dramatic approach. As the sittings progressed, he added lights, one by one, giving himself careful on-the-job training in the use of floods and spots.” LUMAS’ publication of 61 images in extraordinary print quality, the traveling exhibition beginning in autumn, and the first retrospective book about Edward Steichen appearing in a long time, are three events that will grant the respect owed to this very unique artist.

By Walter Keller, freelance curator at LUMAS and editor-in-chief of “du” magazine (September 2007)

1879Born in Bivange, Luxembourg
1881The Steichen family emigrated to the USA
1905Opened his own art gallery with Alfred Stieglitz
1923Began working as a fashion photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair
1947-1962Director of Photography at MoMA, New York City, USA
1955Curated the exhibition “The Family of Man” at MoMA, New York City, USA
1973Died in West Redding, Connecticut, USA


Awards (Selection)

1963Presidential Medal of Freedom, USA
1945Academy Award, Best Documentary, The Fighting Lady


Collections (Selection)

MoMA, New York City, USA
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA


Solo Exhibitions (Selection)

2014Edward Steichen – In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years 1923-1937, Photographer’s Gallery, London, UK
Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War I and Condé Nast Years, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
2013Edward Steichen in the 1920s and 1930s: A Recent Acquisition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, USA
2012The Shaping of New Visions, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
2009Edward Steichen – In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years 1923-1937, International Center of Photography, New York City, USA
2008Edward Steichen: Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., USA
2004Edward Steichen (1879-1973), Hollywood Celebrities, Kunsthal Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands
2003Edward Steichen, Camera Work, Berlin, Germany
2000Edward Steichen, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, USA
1978Steichen: The Master Prints 1895-1914, MoMA, New York City, USA
1961Steichen the Photographer, MoMA, New York City, USA
1936Edward Steichen’s Delphiniums, MoMA, New York City, USA
1910Color Photographs by Edward J. Steichen, 291 Gallery, New York City, USA


Group Exhibitions (Selection)

2014A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
2012Eyes of a Nation: A Century of American Photography, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, USA
2011Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA
2010Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA
Modern Life: Edward Hopper and his Time, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, USA
2009The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1960-1989, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, USA
2008Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA
Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography, Tate Modern, London, UK
Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
2007Amerikanische Modefotografie der 40er Jahre, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
2006Speaking with Hands, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia
1999Augenblick und Endlichkeit, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Degas to Picasso – Painters, Sculptors and the Camera, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA
1997Body in the Lens, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada
1995La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
1988Picturing Greatness, MoMA, New York City, USA
1977documenta 6, Kassel, Germany
1965Glamour Portraits, MoMA, New York City, USA
1948Photo-Secession (American Photography 1902-1910), MoMA, New York City, USA


Books/Catalogs (Selection)

Edward Steichen: In High Fashion. Seine Jahre bei Condé Nast 1923-1937, William A. Ewing et al., Ostfildern 2008.
Edward Steichen. Ein Leben für die Fotografie, Todd Brandow (Ed.) et al., Ostfildern 2007.
Edward Steichen, Barbara Haskell, New York City 2000.
Edward Steichen: The Early Years, Joel Smith, Princeton 1999.
Steichen: A Biography, Penelope Niven, New York City 1997.
The Family of Man: The Greatest Photographic Exhibition of All Time, Edward Steichen, New York City 1955.


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