Edward Steichen – The Last Printing
Danziger Gallery opens our fall 2011 schedule with a show of 84 Edward Steichen
photographs printed by the renowned photographer George Tice. Tice was the last
person to print for Steichen in his lifetime. These prints not only remind us of Steichen’s
genius but also highlight the formidable quality of printing that George Tice has been
known for throughout his career.
In conjunction with Steichen’s work, the gallery is also pleased to present 12 rarely seen
George Tice photographs in our new print room along with his classic signature image,
“Petit’s Mobil Station, Cherry Hill, NJ, 1974.”
Steichen was born Éduard Jean Steichen in Bivange, Luxembourg in 1879. His family
emigrated to Chicago in 1881 and moved to Milwaukee in 1889, when Steichen was 10.
In 1894, at the age of 15, Steichen began a four-year llithography apprenticeship with the
American Fine Art Company of Milwaukee. A precocious and talented draftsman,
Steichen initially saw himself as a painter, but in 1895 he bought his first camera, a
secondhand Kodak box "detective" camera, and began experimenting with the still
relatively new medium.
In the small world of American turn of the century photography, Steichen met Alfred
Stieglitz in 1900, while stopping in New York City en route to Paris. In that first
meeting, Stieglitz expressed praise for Steichen's painting but bought three of his
The two remained in contact and in 1902, when Stieglitz was formulating what would
become Camera Work, he asked Steichen to design the logo and help edit the magazine
which went on to become arguably the most influential journal of photography ever
While Steiglitz sat firmly in the fine art camp, Steichen was interested in expanding his
reach, influence, and connections. Never averse to the commercial world, by 1910
Steichen was happily taking on editorial assignments and indeed his photographs of Paul
Poiret dresses in the magazine Art et Décoration in 1911 are regarded as the first
modern fashion photographs ever published.
By the mid-1920s Steichen was the highest-paid photographer in America. In 1923 he
was hired as chief photographer for Condé Nast Publications, and at one point in the
1920s he earned $100,000 a year from his advertising work alone.
Though his commercial success meant a break with the high-minded view of the medium
espoused by his mentor Alfred Stieglitz, Steichen had come to the conclusion that photography’s natural function was utilitarian: a thoroughly modern means of human
communication. For the next fifteen years, Steichen would take full advantage of the
resources and prestige conferred by the Condé Nast empire to produce an oeuvre of
unequalled brilliance, putting his exceptional talents and prodigious energies to work
dramatizing and glamorizing contemporary culture and its achievers -- in politics,
literature, journalism, dance, theatre, opera, cinema, and the world of high fashion.
Steichen's portraits have survived the test of time. He had an uncanny intuition for how
to distill the public personae of the famous and make them at once familiar and iconic. It
was this that makes him the founding father of our present-day cult of celebrity. His
portraits have a extraordinary place in our visual memory – his startling depiction of J.P.
Morgan as the archetypical robber baron, clutching the chair arm that resembles a
gleaming dagger; his close-up of a feline Gloria Swanson, glowering behind black-lace
foliage; his restrained observation of an impossibly handsome and debonair Gary
Steichen’s ingenuity in portraiture was coaxing his sitters into heightened expressions of
their innermost character. He once considered going into the movies, and there was
indeed a cinematic quality in much of his work. As Greta Garbo told him after one
shoot: "You should be a motion-picture director. You understand." Sometimes
performing artists even made his ideas their own. Steichen's portrait of Fred Astaire
silhouetted against his own larger-than-life shadow was the inspiration for similar setups
in the dancer's later films.
At the outbreak of World War II, Steichen became chief of Navy combat photography –
a job he relished. After the war, Steichen gave up assignment work altogether and
turned to what he saw as his crowning achievement: a grand thematic project that
would advance the cause of world peace. Titled “The Family of Man” - the exhibition
comprised 503 pictures taken by 273 photographers from 68 countries. Debuting at The
Museum of Modern Art in 1955, the show strove to depict experiences common to all
mankind and reflected in diverse cultures. The show traveled to 72 foreign venues over
the next decade and was seen by nine million people. Some critics found its earnest
message naive and out-of-touch with the complexities of a world in chaotic change.
However it remained a vast popular success selling two and a half million copies in its
Shortly thereafter, George Tice came to Steichen’s attention when he saw Tice’s
dramatic photograph of an explosion aboard the U.S.S. Wasp on the front page of the
New York Times and acquired it for MoMA’s collection. Tice was 20 years old at the
After Steichen’s death in 1973, Tice continued to work on Steichen projects. In 1997,
Steichen’s widow Joanna engaged Tice to print all the photographs for her retrospective
memoir “Steichen’s Legacy” released in conjunction with the Whitney Museum’s 2000
Steichen retrospective. These prints have never been exhibited until now.
For more information please contact Danziger Gallery at 212 629 6778 or e-mail