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Collection Genthe Collection

About this Collection

Arnold Genthe (1869-1942) was an internationally recognized photographer working in the soft-focus pictorialist style. The Library of Congress acquired approximately 20,000 items from his unclaimed studio after his death.

The "electronic collection" contains approximately 16,000 of Genthe's black and white negatives, transparencies, lantern slides, and color autochromes. Its production was part of an initiative by Congress that enables the Library to preserve its fragile negative collections. Some of Genthe's photographic prints and other items have been grouped by subject matter into "LOTs" [ view LOT records for Genthe photographic prints]. The rest of Genthe's photographic prints are currently unprocessed. Arrangements to view unprocessed prints are made under the Access to Unprocessed Materials policy.

Arnold Genthe's photographic career spanned four decades and several continents and ranged thematically from portraiture to dance and travel studies. Organized in general chronological order, the following portfolio provides an overview of subjects in the Genthe collection.


Children of high class, Chinatown, San Francisco
Reproduction #: LC-G403-T-0151 (interpositive)

Genthe photographed San Francisco's old Chinatown from the late 1890s until his move to New York in 1911. He published the first edition of Old Chinatown in 1908, which included "Children of High Class" shown here. There are over 400 images of Chinatown in the collection.

San Francisco Portraits

London, Jack, portrait photograph
Reproduction #: LC-G399-0200 (b&w glass neg.)

The bulk of the Genthe negative and transparency collection consists of studio portraits. The portraits he made in San Francisco date from 1896 to 1911 and include this negative of Jack London. Some other sitters were: George Sterling, Mary Austen, Sarah Bernhardt, Sinclair Lewis, Frank Norris, Margaret Anglin, and Julia Marlowe.

New York Portraits

Edna St. Vincent Millay at Mitchell Kennerley's house in Mamaroneck, New York
Reproduction #: LC-G41-CT-0341 (color transparency)

Genthe's New York studio portraits date from 1911 until the 1940s. Greta Garbo, Senator Robert LaFollette Sr., Gene Tunney, President Woodrow Wilson, John Barrymore, Mary Pickford, and Eleonora Duse were some of his clients. There are several thousand portraits in the collection, including this autochrome of Edna St. Vincent Millay.


Ruth St. Denis
Reproduction #: LC-G412-T-0301-H-025 (interpositive)

The Genthe negative collection includes hundreds of images of dancers and dance performances taken throughout Genthe's career. Included are: Isadora Duncan and the Duncan Dancers, Anna Pavlova, Margaret Severn, the Marion Morgan Dancers, the Anita Zahn Dancers, Martha Graham and Ruth St. Denis, shown here.

European Travel

Travel views of Europe
Reproduction #: LC-G395-T-0189 (interpositive)

Genthe traveled to Spain in 1904 and to Greece in 1929-1930, photographing people and architecture. Approximately 250 images of Greece and Spain are in the collection, including this negative of a bullfight in Spain.


Travel views of Morocco
Reproduction #: LC-G396-T-0136 (interpositive)

Genthe traveled to Morocco in 1904. His Moroccan photographs, which concentrate on the people and architecture on North Africa, may be seen as a log of his travels. This negative is one of approximately 100 from Morocco.

Japan and the Ainu

Ainu man and seated woman at the entrance of a hut
Reproduction #: LC-G398-T-0017 (interpositive)

Genthe traveled to Japan for six months in 1908 photographing the people and architecture. He also visited the Ainu on the island of Hokkaido. This negative of two Ainu is one of approximately 700 from Japan.


Helen MacGowan Cooke picking California golden poppies in a field
Reproduction #: LC-G408-CT-0060 (color transparency)

Genthe was one of the first photographers in America to use the Lumiere brothers' new autochrome process for color photography. He made autochrome portraits and landscapes throughout the United States from 1906 until the 1930's. Approximately 500 autochromes are in the collection, including this one of Helen Cooke.

The American Southwest

Acoma, New Mexico
Reproduction #: LC-G41-CT-0284 (color transparency)

Genthe visited the American Southwest several times between 1899 and 1928. The collection includes approximately 200 images depicting the region's scenery, people and architecture, including this autochrome of a pueblo.

Caribbean and Central America

Travel views of Cuba and Guatemala
Reproduction #: LC-G394-T-0351 (interpositive)

Genthe visited Cuba and Guatemala in the mid-1920s, recording both the lushness of the jungle and the Spanish-influenced architecture. This negative of the President's Palace in Havana, Cuba is one of approximately 400 from Cuba and Guatemala.

New Orleans and Charleston

A vista through iron lace, New Orleans
Reproduction #: LC-G391-T-0258 (interpositive)

In 1926 Genthe published Impressions of Old New Orleans documenting the historic city's people and architecture. Genthe also took travel photographs of Charleston, South Carolina. Approximately 850 images of New Orleans and Charleston are in the collection, including this negative of a New Orleans balcony.

Autobiographical Photographs

Arnold Genthe at the beach
Reproduction #: LC-G405-T-0051 (interpositive)

Among the Genthe negatives are approximately 500 personal images. Included are self-portraits, snapshots, photographs of works of art from his own collection and this negative of Genthe himself.