Paul Robeson as Emperor Jones
Luxembourg, United States of America
27 Mar 1879 - 25 Mar 1973
Like Alfred Stieglitz, Steichen was a giant of American photography. His career extended from his first exhibited photographs in 1899 until his retirement as curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, in 1962. In between he was an influential member of The Linked Ring Brotherhood and the Photo-Secessionists who promoted photography as art; co-publisher with Stieglitz of ‘Camera Work’; and co-director with Stieglitz of gallery 291 in New York. He was chief photographer for Condé Nast publications from 1923 until 1937 and he was in charge of all American Navy combat photography during the Second World War. Among the many exhibitions he organised while at MoMA was the enormously influential ‘Family of man’.
From early in his career Steichen was regarded as an innovative portrait photographer. His portraits of Auguste Rodin encapsulated the essence of the sculptor; his portraits of actors encapsulated the essence of their roles. The photograph of Paul Robeson as Emperor Jones was taken for ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine: ‘’Vanity Fair’ was the magazine of talent, intellect, wit, culture and power’1 and Robeson had just signed on to appear in the film of the eponymous Eugene O’Neill play. He had played Emperor Jones in the 1925 stage play and was one of the first African–American men to play serious roles in the primarily white American theatre.
1. Tucker A W 1984, 'Works on paper: Edward Steichen: the Condé Nast years', Museum of Fine Arts, Houston np
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Paul Robeson as the Emperor Jones, New York
gelatin silver photograph
24.6 x 16.1 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
© The Estate of Edward Steichen/ARS. Licensed by Copyright Agency
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Selected recent acquisitions, 1989, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Sep 1989–17 Dec 1989
International Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jan 1991–14 Apr 1991
American Beauty: from Muybridge to Goldin, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 2003–27 Jul 2003
Referenced in 3 publications
Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The photograph and portraiture', pg.15-31, Sydney, 2007, 30 (illus.).
Judy Annear, American beauty: from Muybridge to Goldin, Sydney, 2003. no catalogue numbers
Barbara Haskell, Edward Steichen, New York, 2000.