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Definition: Steichen, Edward Jean from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Luxembourg-born US photographer, who with Alfred Stieglitz helped to establish photography as an art form. His style evolved during his career from painterly Impressionism to realism.

He recorded both world wars, and was also an innovative fashion and portrait photographer.


Summary Article: STEICHEN, EDWARD (1879-1973)
from Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Edward Steichen, born Eduard Jean, Luxembourg, immigrated to the United States in 1881. At 16 he took up photography in 1895 while studying painting at the Milwaukee Art Students League and on his apprenticeship in lithography, first exhibiting photographs in 1899 at the Second Philadelphia Salon. While few have achieved so many different careers in photography, he seems no longer to be accorded the status he had in his lifetime. The accusation that he kept changing horses for financial reasons may have stuck to his reputation: it is indeed hard to image that his fashion and advertising photography of 1923 onwards for Condé Nast is the same person as the painter and photographer protégé of Alfred Steiglitz, as the man who persuaded Steiglitz to open the 291 gallery in New York; the same photographer (more and more esteemed today) of those Whistler diffused images when he was a member of the Linked Ring (1901) and the Photo-Session (founder member 1902); the exclusive aesthetic interpreter of Rodin, one of the first photographers involved with colour, using autochromes as early as 1904. Pictorialist Steichen, still a painter then, also depicted brooding landscapes. These early Steichen's, essentially developed out of 19th century aesthetics, may well turn out to be his golden period rather than his conversion to ‘Straight,’ then to ‘commercial art,’ or that he became curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1947-62), and of the most successful photography exhibition ever held: The Family of Man (1955). He was also a successful breeder of delphiniums, an equal art, he would have maintained.

Alistair Crawford
© 2008 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

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