An image of Paul Robeson as Emperor Jones

Edward Steichen

(Luxembourg, United States of America 27 Mar 1879 – 25 Mar 1973)

Paul Robeson as Emperor Jones

Other titles:
Paul Robeson as the Emperor Jones, New York
Not on display
Further information

Like Alfred Stieglitz, Steichen was a giant of American photography. His career extended from his first exhibited photographs in 1899 until his retirement as curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, in 1962. In between he was an influential member of The Linked Ring Brotherhood and the Photo-Secessionists who promoted photography as art; co-publisher with Stieglitz of ‘Camera Work’; and co-director with Stieglitz of gallery 291 in New York. He was chief photographer for Condé Nast publications from 1923 until 1937 and he was in charge of all American Navy combat photography during the Second World War. Among the many exhibitions he organised while at MoMA was the enormously influential ‘Family of man’.

From early in his career Steichen was regarded as an innovative portrait photographer. His portraits of Auguste Rodin encapsulated the essence of the sculptor; his portraits of actors encapsulated the essence of their roles. The photograph of Paul Robeson as Emperor Jones was taken for ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine: ‘’Vanity Fair’ was the magazine of talent, intellect, wit, culture and power’1 and Robeson had just signed on to appear in the film of the eponymous Eugene O’Neill play. He had played Emperor Jones in the 1925 stage play and was one of the first African–American men to play serious roles in the primarily white American theatre.

1. Tucker A W 1984, 'Works on paper: Edward Steichen: the Condé Nast years', Museum of Fine Arts, Houston np

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

circa 1933
gelatin silver photograph
24.6 x 16.1 cm image/sheet
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Purchased 1989
Accession number
© Reproduced with permission of Joanna T Steichen Permission to copy, print or download this image has been withheld by the copyright owner