Block Museum Receives Gift of Photographs by Edward Steichen

Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is one of three institutions receiving an extraordinary gift of vintage photographs by Edward Steichen from collectors Richard and Jackie Hollander.

The Hollanders have donated 49 gelatin silver prints by Steichen, universally regarded as one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, to the Block. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art are also receiving Steichen works from the Hollanders.

In making the donation of 142 photographs, Richard Hollander, the Chairman of Aristotle Capital Management, LLC, and Jackie Hollander commented: “Presenting this gift to these three outstanding institutions across the United States represents our commitment to ensuring that these works have the greatest accessibility to the public across the nation, from coast to coast. Our hope is that this gift will provide an opportunity for students, art enthusiasts, and the general public to gain increased appreciation for Edward Steichen and to be inspired by his work.” Mr. Hollander continued, “At Aristotle Capital Management our people are committed to community involvement in many different ways. Through this gift of Steichen photographs, we hope to make a meaningful contribution toward greater public access to remarkable art.”

The gift to the Block has been made in honor of Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and his wife Mimi Schapiro, who have a close friendship with the Hollanders. “The donation from Richard and Jackie is a testament to the Block Museum’s increasing prominence in the local and national art worlds,” said President Schapiro. “It highlights the role that the Block Museum’s growing permanent collection plays in bringing great art to Northwestern, Chicago, and the surrounding communities. Collectors with significant holdings know that donating to the Block ensures the artworks they love will be shared with a broad audience.”

“This donation is transformative for the Block, which has steadily been building its photography collection,“ said Lisa Corrin, the Block Museum’s Ellen Philips Katz Director. “Of his many achievements, Steichen was a pioneering figure who created a vocabulary of visual conventions that came to define ‘celebrity,’  ‘style,’ ‘leader,’ and ‘genius.’ This gift will provide an excellent tool for critical discussions with students across fields of study about how such conventions continue to operate today.” An exhibition of the photographs is planned at the Block this fall (September 20-December 1, 2013).

The Hollanders are believed to have held the largest collection of Steichen photographs in private hands. They purchased the photographs, printed by Steichen himself, directly from the estate of the artist, giving the works a rare provenance.

During his career as a photographer Edward Steichen (1879—1973) transformed the medium through his innovations in portrait, fashion, theater, horticultural, and advertising photography. He became one of the best known portraitists in the world, focusing on capturing the personalities as well as the look of his subjects. These included the most famous names of his day—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, John Barrymore, Eugene O’Neil, H. L. Mencken, Carl Sandburg, Paul Robeson, and others.

In 1923, Steichen was hired as the first chief of photography for Vogue and Vanity Fair, a position he held until 1937. With America’s entry into World War II, Steichen volunteered for service and became head of the U.S. naval photographic division and commander of all Navy combat photography. In 1944 he directed the Oscar-winning documentary The Fighting Lady, about life aboard an aircraft carrier during wartime.

After the war Steichen became the director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His most famous exhibition, “The Family of Man,” presented photography as an art form that could act, in Steichen’s words, “as a mirror of the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world.” Steichen received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy in 1963 in recognition of a lifetime of achievement.

IMAGES: Edward Steichen, George Washington Bridge, 1931, vintage gelatin silver print. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of the Hollander Family in honor of Morton and Mimi Schapiro, 2012.10.28. © The Estate of Edward Steichen.

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