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Artists Edward Steichen
Edward Steichen Photo

Edward Steichen

American Photographer, Painter, and Filmmaker

Movements and Styles: Pictorialism, Tonalism, Fashion Photography, Social Realism

Born: March 27, 1879 - Bivange, Luxembourg

Died: March 25, 1973 - West Redding, Connecticut

Edward Steichen Timeline

Quotes

"There is only one optimist. He has been here since man has been on this earth, and that is man himself. If we hadn't had such a magnificent optimism to carry us through all these things, we wouldn't be here. We have survived it on our optimism".
Edward Steichen
"When that shutter clicks, anything else that can be done afterward is not worth consideration".
Edward Steichen
"Every other artist begins (with) a blank canvas, a piece of paper... the photographer begins with the finished product".
Edward Steichen
"To make good photographs, to express something, to contribute something to the world he lives in, and to contribute something to the art of photography besides imitations of the best photographers on the market today, that is basic training, the understanding of self".
Edward Steichen
"No photographer is as good as the simplest camera".
Edward Steichen
"I knew, of course, that trees and plants had roots, stems, bark, branches and foliage that reached up toward the light. But I was coming to realize that the real magician was light itself".
Edward Steichen
"Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man".
Edward Steichen
"There is only one optimist. He has been here since man has been on this earth, and that is man himself. If we hadn't had such a magnificent optimism to carry us through all these things, we wouldn't be here. We have survived it on our optimism".
Edward Steichen

"Photography is a major force in explaining man to man".

Synopsis

Very few artists have had an impact on the American photographic arts to match that of Edward Steichen. From around 1900, he was instrumental in establishing a status for American photography as art through a commitment to the principles Pictorialism. After travels across Europe, and a spell living in Paris, he became acquainted with many of the 20th centuries greatest artists and performers, helping to bring European modernism to the wider attention of the American public through his involvement with the 291 gallery in New York. Steichen joined the American army during WW1 after which he abandoned Pictorialism and painting in favor of Straight Photography. He put his new creativity to use in commercial photography and he is credited by many as having invented what became known as fashion photography. With the onset of WWII, Steichen enlisted once more before resuming his career as Director of the Department of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). While at MoMA he curated The Family of Man exhibition, still considered to be the most successful photographic exhibition of all time.

Key Ideas

With Alfred Stieglitz, he helped form the Photo-Secession group, co-founded the influential quarterly Camera Work and established the famous 291 gallery, and all within the first five years of 1900s. In this early period of his career, Steichen divided his time between impressionistic painting and photography. He mastered the skill of Tonalism and the multi-layered color printing process known as gum-bichromate. By this method he was able to bring an impressionistic mood to his photographic images (and, perhaps, something of his photographic practice to his painting).
Following his involvement in the first Great War as a member of the Army's photographic division, Steichen abandoned pictorialism and painting altogether in favor of a more direct form of photography. Steichen reached the conclusion that photography should be treated as an artistic medium on its own terms (it should not try to imitate painting in other words). He effectively started afresh as a Straight Photographer. Straight Photography demanded a commitment to high definition and fine picture detail and through it he brought a new standard of graphic excellence to the pages of top quality magazine publications including Vogue and Vanity Fair.
Through his commercial work, Steichen took many portraits of luminaries from various walks of public life during the 1920s and 1930s. But it was his portraits of the stars of stage and screen that gained him renown as a most brilliant portraitist. Steichen realized the importance of establishing a rapport with his subject and by approaching his portraiture as a collaboration between photographer and sitter he revealed an uncanny ability to capture something of the very essence of their aura.
Edward Steichen Photo

Eduard Jean Steichen was born in Bivange, Luxembourg in 1879. His father, Jean-Pierre, moved to the United States the following year; Eduard and his mother, Marie, following in 1881, once his father had secured work in the copper mines in Hancock, near Chicago. Eduard's sister Lilian was born soon thereafter in 1883. The Steichen family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1889, where, due to Jean-Pierre's deteriorating health, Marie took on the role of breadwinner, working as a milliner.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Edward Steichen
Interactive chart with Edward Steichen's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

James WhistlerJames Whistler
John Singer SargentJohn Singer Sargent

Personal Contacts

Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
Gertrude Käsebier
Eva Watson-Schütze
Clarence WhiteClarence White

Movements

SymbolismSymbolism
PictorialismPictorialism
TonalismTonalism

Influences on Artist
Edward Steichen
Edward Steichen
Years Worked: 1897 - 1962
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Paul StrandPaul Strand
Robert FrankRobert Frank
Bruce Weber
Richard AvedonRichard Avedon
Stephen ShoreStephen Shore

Personal Contacts

Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
Auguste RodinAuguste Rodin

Movements

PictorialismPictorialism
Fashion PhotographyFashion Photography
Modern PhotographyModern Photography

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Content compiled and written by Katie da Cunha Lewin

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Katie da Cunha Lewin
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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