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Edward Steichen: In High Fashion the Condé Nast Years, 1923–1937 and Edward Steichen: Episodes from a Life in Photography

May 30, 2009 - November 8, 2009

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) presents two exhibitions highlighting different periods from the photographic career of Edward Steichen. In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923–1937 is the first comprehensive presentation of Steichen work made for the fashion and glamour industry. Episodes from a Life in Photography surveys Steichen’s photography throughout his career. A special celebration marking the opening of these two exhibitions will take place on June 5 at 6:00 pm. Gallery talks will be given at 6:00 pm. This is a free public event and all are invited to attend.

Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923–1937 presents over 180 photographs that Steichen made while working as Chief Photographer for two of Condé Nast’s best known magazines: Vogue and Vanity Fair. Steichen photographed models wearing fashion from some of the most famous designers of the period including Worth, Poiret, Chanel, and Schiaparelli. He also created portraits of the most prominent figures in literature, journalism, dance, sport, politics, theatre, and film for Vanity Fair, including Greta Garbo, Winston Churchill, Marlene Dietrich, George Gershwin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Amelia Earhart, and Walt Disney. Between the two World Wars, Steichen revolutionized fashion photography while becoming known as “the most famous portrait photographer in the world.” In High Fashion opens at WCMA on May 30 and runs through September 13, 2009, after which it will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario. A 288-page catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

Edward Steichen: Episodes from a Life in Photography features photographs from throughout Steichen’s prolific career, presenting many different aspects and themes. It also highlights some of the technical and artistic issues that Steichen explored in his printing methods. Episodes depicts Steichen’s transition from pictorialist to modernist photography, which is epitomized by his fashion and glamour photography. Episodes presents 90 photographs and includes multiple copies of certain prints to demonstrate Steichen’s interest in a variety of technological processes. It opens at WCMA on June 6 and runs through November 8, 2009.

“We are unbelievably fortunate to have this bounty of Edward Steichen material on view—almost 300 vintage prints,” notes exhibition curator John Stomberg. “These works are rarely seen. We will also be showing all of the original, extraordinarily fine gelatin silver prints (still in their original mounts) that Steichen created for a 1936 illustrated edition of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Together these two shows demonstrate the dynamism of American modernism and Steichen’s critical role in its development.”

In High Fashion, the North American exhibition, was organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis, the Musée de E’lysée, Lausanne, Switzerland, and the International Center of Photography, New York in collaboration with Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Mass. It was curated by William A. Ewing, Director, Musée de l´Elysée; Todd Brandow, Executive Director, Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography; Nathalie Herschdorfer, Curator, Musée de l’Elysée; and Carol Squiers, Curator, International Center of Photography.

Episodes from a Life in Photography was organized by John Stomberg, Deputy Director/Chief Curator and Lecturer in Art at WCMA, with assistance by Veronika Totos, Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, Class of 2009.