Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was an American painter and photographer born in Bivange, Luxembourg. He became a naturalized citizen in 1900. Steichen began his career as a fine art painter, but he soon took up the pictorialist approach to photography, going on to establish the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession with Alfred Stieglitz. During World War I, Steichen moved into straight photography, serving as Director of the Naval Photographic Institute during World War II and winning an Academy Award for Best Documentary for his 1945 film "The Fighting Lady". He is perhaps most well-known for his curatorial work for the 1955 photography exhibition "The Family of Man" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Steichen selected more than 500 images from professional and amateur photographers in over 68 countries to depict universal themes of the human experience, such as birth, death, war and illness. The exhibition traveled to 38 countries and was viewed by over 9 million people, resulting in an equally successful book of the same name, which included an introduction by Steichen's brother-in-law, the poet Carl Sandburg.
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919) was an American railroad-car manufacturer from Detroit, Michigan who amassed a large fortune as one of the founders of the Peninsular Car Company, which would go on to become American Car and Foundry. In the latter part of the 19th century, Freer was diagnosed with neurasthenia, the prescribed treatment for which was usually rest and avoidance of stressful activities. Freer began collecting art, starting with American masters and impressionist painters. Early on, Freer met and began collecting the works of James Whistler, who advised him to start collecting Asian art. Freer traveled to China, Japan and Korea, amassing a large private collection. Early in the twentieth century, Freer decided to donate his art to the public; in 1916, construction began on what is now known as the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution. The building, which was paid for by Freer, cost one million dollars. Completion was delayed by World War I and the gallery was not opened until 1923. Freer died in 1919, leaving the bulk of his art collection to the federal government. This photograph comes originally from the Estate of Clarence P. Freer, nephew of Charles Lang Freer.
Purchased, April 1993.
Stored in one box
Three photographic platinum prints, signed by Steichen in pencil on the image, numbered in an unidentified hand in pencil on the reverse.
Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, 1050 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20013-7012