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Collection Van Vechten Collection

About this Collection

Comprised of 1,395 photographs taken by American photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) between 1932 and 1964, the bulk of the collection consists of portrait photographs of celebrities, including many figures from the Harlem Renaissance. A much smaller portion of the collection is an assortment of American landscapes.

Background and Scope

The Carl Van Vechten photographs form two lots in the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. The following text provides the division's official description of these two lots.

LOT 12735 (H)
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Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964, photographer.

.....Portrait photographs of celebrities [graphic]. -- 1932-1964.

.....1,310 photographic prints : silver gelatin ; 28 x 35 cm. or smaller.

Arrangement: Arranged by size and within size alphabetically by sitter.

Subject: Primarily studio portraits of people involved in the arts, including musicians, dancers, artists, literati, theatrical, film, and television actors and actresses. Includes black entertainers, particularly those associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Also includes a few athletes, statesmen and publishers, as well as portraits of Van Vechten, including one self-portrait. Most are individual portraits, but also includes some group portraits. Sitters represented in ten or more photos are: Judith Anderson, Tallulah Bankhead, Anton Dolin, Ram Gopal, Hugh Laing, Alicia Markova, and Ethel Waters.

Biographical note: Primarily known as a music and dance critic and novelist, Van Vechten gained a reputation as a theatrical and society photographer. Many of the sitters were acquaintances of Van Vechten; he photographed them in his studio, in private sittings, and also at social gatherings.

Finding aids: Online catalog available on Internet. In addition, manual finding aid available in Prints and Photographs Reading Room, filed by lot number; lists sitters, date of photograph, and Van Vechten number. (Finding aid also available on microfilm.)

Note: LOT title devised. Brief captions, including name of sitter, date of photo, and Van Vechten number penned or pencilled on versos of photos. Blind stamp with photographer's name on many photos; photographer's stamp on versos of many.

Note: Most photos taken and probably printed by Carl Van Vechten. Some photos of Van Vechten taken by Mark Lutz, Prentiss Taylor, and, possibly, Saul Mauriber.

Note: Images available on Internet, videodisc, and microfilm.

Restrictions: Photoprints fragile; use microfilm.

Source: Gift, Carl Van Vechten estate, 1966.

LOT 12736 (H)
Use Microfilm or Electronic Reproduction (P&P)

Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964, photographer.

.....American scenes [graphic]. -- 1932-1956.

.....85 photographic prints : silver gelatin ; 28 x 35 cm. or smaller.

Arrangement: Arranged by state; unidentified locales at the end.

Subject: Sites and scenes in Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Primarily Massachusetts and Maine, including landscapes, seascapes, wharves, beaches, barns, dwellings, sculpture, and antique shops and yard ornaments; windmill, haying, and architectural elements in Massachusetts. Also includes New York City skylines, cityscapes, monuments, ironwork, and scene overlooking backyards with clotheslines. Portrait of a boy and one of a man in New Mexico pueblos. One image of boys sitting on street curb and one of man crouched in bar doorway. Yale University stadium and passageway with columns at University of Virginia. Barns and details and full views of sculpture and fountains in various locales.

Biographical note: Primarily known as a music and dance critic and novelist, Van Vechten gained a reputation as a theatrical and society photographer.

Finding aids: Online catalog available on Internet. In addition, manual finding aid available in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room, filed by lot number; lists sites and/or subjects, date of photograph, and Van Vechten number. (Finding aid is also available on the microfilm.)

Note: LOT title devised. Brief captions, including identification of site or subject, date of photo, and Van Vechten number penned or pencilled on versos of most photos. Blind stamp with photographer's name on many photos; photographer's stamp on versos of many.

Note: Photos probably printed by Van Vechten himself.

Note: Images available on microfilm.

Restrictions: Photoprints fragile; use microfilm.

Source: Gift, Carl Van Vechten estate, 1966.

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