Yousuf Karsh and Edward Steichen: The Art of the Celebrity Portrait

18 Apr 2009 - 20 Sep 2009

This exhibition of 35 prints from the National Gallery Collection shows the remarkable skills of two of the twentieth century’s greatest portrait photographers – Yousuf Karsh and Edward Steichen. Their relationship was established in 1936 when Karsh paid his first visit to Steichen’s New York studio. Working with a clientele composed of individuals celebrated for their power, wealth or talent, both photographers displayed a remarkable ability to engage with their sitters on equal terms and to capture their characters without compromising their standards of artistic integrity or formal excellence. Although the young Karsh clearly learned a great deal about celebrity portraiture from Steichen – whose work he had studied from the days of his apprenticeship in photography – he also developed a unique portrait style that makes his work so readily recognizable to us today. This installation illustrates both the connections between the two celebrity portraitists and their distinctiveness.