Block Museum receives major gift of photography by Edward Steichen
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Block Museum receives major gift of photography by Edward Steichen
Edward Steichen, Sunflower in Seed (1920),Vintage gelatin silver print, 7 5/8 in x 9 3/4 in. Collection of Block Museum of Art (2016.15.15) Gift of Richard and Jackie Hollander in honor of Alissa Schapiro. Image courtesy Artists Rights Society.­

EVANSTON, ILL.- Images ranging from Charlie Chaplin and W.B. Yeats to self-portraits and botanical studies are among 44 Edward Steichen photographs given to Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum by art collectors Richard and Jackie Hollander.

The significant gift of silver gelatin and platinum prints by the Luxembourg-born American photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973) is the second to the museum from the Hollander family, who donated 49 Steichen prints to the Block in 2013.

Prior to a series of museum gifts to the Block, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hollanders held the world’s largest private collection of Steichen photographs, which they purchased directly from the artist’s estate. Adding to the value and importance of the collection, the photographs were printed by the artist himself.

Active throughout the 20th century, Edward Steichen transformed the medium through his innovations in portrait, fashion, theater, horticultural and advertising photography. He became one of the best-known portraitists in the world, focusing on capturing the personalities as well as the impressions of his subjects.

“We are honored by this new and important gift of art from Richard and Jackie Hollander, which recognizes the Block’s increasing prominence as a university art museum committed to teaching with its collections across fields of study,” notes Lisa Corrin, the Block Museum’s Ellen Philips Katz Director. “It highlights the value of the collection as a significant resource for faculty, students and the Chicago-area community. Collectors like the Hollanders know that giving works of art to the Block ensures that these treasures will be studied and appreciated, particularly by new generations of students, for many years to come.”

This group of 44 works represents a significant addition to the Hollanders’ earlier gift of 49 works by Steichen, strengthening the breadth and the depth of the Block’s holdings of photographs by the artist. Ranging from 1901 to 1935, this collection of photographs showcases the range of Steichen’s early work and the multiplicity of his interests -- from fashion, to nature, to self-portrait, dance and movement.

Photographs from the previous gift were exhibited in the 2014 exhibition “Steichen ǀ Warhol: Picturing Fame,” the first exhibition to closely examine the lines of connection between the two photographers. Four Steichen works from the Block collection were loaned to the Art Institute of Chicago for the groundbreaking 2014 exhibition “Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War I and Condé Nast Years.”

While the original gift provided the museum with iconic celebrity images from the artist’s best-known years as a Condé Nast photographer, this second set of prints complements and differentiates the first portfolio, speaking to Steichen’s great range as a photographer and shedding light on some of the lesser-known areas of his practice. Of particular interest to scholars will be the horticultural and botanical studies in the collection, which situate Steichen within the mid-20th century movement of abstract photography.

“The Hollanders’ generous gift will provide an excellent tool for critical discussions with students and scholars from many academic departments across the University,” says Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs. “The Hollander’s two major gifts encompass Steichen’s many areas of interest and evolution as a photographer. It will be studied holistically while each print individually offers significant comparative potential for drawing out concepts within the Block’s growing collection of modern and contemporary art.”

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