Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities

Living Portraits: The Poets

Posted in Beinecke Library by beineckepoetry on April 27, 2009

Poets photographed by Carl Van Vechten, including images featured in the exhibition Living Portraits: Carl Van Vechten’s Color Photographs of African Americans, 1939-1964, on view at the Beinecke Library from April 30 through June 30, 2009.

Langston Hughes, 1942


Owen Dodson, 1942


Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka),1962


Countee Cullen, 1941


Duward Collins, 1962


Nicolas Guillen, 1949

Living Portraits: Carl Van Vechten’s Color Photographs of African Americans, 1939-1964 features some 140 never-before-exhibited color photographs by Carl Van Vechten. Van Vechten (1880-1964) had an artistic vision rooted in the centrality of the talented person. He cherished accomplishment, whether in music, dance, theater, fine art, literature, sport, or advocacy.

He began to make photographic portraits in 1932; in 1939 he discovered newly available color film. For a quarter century, he invited friends and acquaintances, well-known artists and fledgling entertainers to sit for him, often against backdrops reminiscent of the vivid colors and patterns of a Matisse painting. Among his subjects were a very young Diahann Carroll, Billie Holiday in tears, Paul Robeson as Othello, and a procession of opera stars, composers, authors, musicians, and others who made notable contributions to the cultural life of the country. The exhibition includes 140 full-sized portraits, digitally reformatted from Van Vechten’s original slides. [ca. 140 items]
Selected images from the Carl Van Vechten Photograph Collection

Images above: Langston Hughes,   Owen Dodson, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Countee CullenDuward Collins, Nicolas Guillen, photographed by Carl Van Vechten. Photographs by Carl Van Vechten are used with permission of the Van Vechten Trust; the permission of the Trust is required to reprint or use Van Vechten photographs in any way. To contact the Trust email: Van Vechten Trust.

April is National Poetry Month!

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