American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Sophisticated Gentleman

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington
William P. Gottlieb (b. 1917)
[Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington]
Gelatin silver print, ca. 1947
Prints & Photographs Division

During the late 1930s The Washington Post was hesitant to pay staff photographers for the late-night hours required to accompany the paper's novice music columnist William Gottlieb on his postshow interviews with jazz musicians at various Washington, D.C., nightclubs. So Gottlieb, inspired by the new photojournalism of Life magazine, learned to take his own photographs. He covered the jazz and blues scene first for The Washington Post and later for Down Beat. He captured this image of Duke Ellington's charismatic presence after a performance at New York's Paramount Theater in the late 1940s.

Ellington--his reflection caught in a dressing room mirror--looks fully the part of an American musical giant: debonair and handsome. Creator of such distinctive yet iconic classics as "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady," and "Satin Doll," Ellington considered his music as both personal expression and a continuation and reaffirmation of the African-American musical heritage.

The Gottlieb Photographic Collection contains approximately fifteen hundred images of eminent jazz musicians including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Thelonious Monk, and was purchased with funds from a bequest of Ira and Leonore Gershwin for use by the Music Division. )

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