Edward Steichen was a pioneering American photographer best known for his striking portraits from the early-twentieth century. He began his career as a painter and a photographer, producing atmospheric and expressive photographs with a deliberate painterly appearance. After serving in World War I as an aerial photographer, he abandoned painting and developed a more modernist approach to photography, focusing on making images for the printed page. While serving as the chief photographer for Condé Nast publications from 1923 to 1937, Steichen was considered one of the greatest portrait photographers at the time. He was assigned to photograph famous actors, writers, artists, statesmen, and society figures for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines. His portraits include iconic images of Winston Churchill, Paul Robeson, Marlene Dietrich, Eugene O’Neill, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, among others.
During World War II, Steichen volunteered for service, and became director of the U.S. Navy Photographic Institute, in charge of all Navy Combat photography. In 1947, he was appointed director of the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, where he worked for fifteen years and curated more than forty exhibitions. His most famous show was The Family of Man (1955), a wide- ranging exhibition of photographs by artists from around the world linked together a shared human experience.
Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art