"Mr. and Mrs.": The Sandburgs, Elmhurst, Illinois

"Mr. and Mrs.": The Sandburgs, Elmhurst, Illinois
Waxed toned platinum print. 1923. Signed in white pencil on the recto; title in pencil on the verso.
10.7/8 x 11in. (27.6 x 26cm.) Framed.
See: "We Nominate for the Hall of Fame:", Vanity Fair, November, 1923; Sandburg, Steichen, The Photographer, n.p.; Steichen, A Life in Photography, pl. 94; Davis, An American Century of Photography, From Dry-plate to Digital, The Hallmark Photographic Collection, p. 149, pl. 49.
Sale room notice
Property from the Collection of Dr. Barbara K. Hogan.
Gift of the artist.

Lot Essay

We Nominate for the Hall of Fame:

Carl Sandburg

Because of his four volumes of verse, representing a serious effort to capture and express the authentic rhythm of American life, have given him a peculiar celebrity among American poets; because his tales for children, most recently "Rootabaga Pigeons", are charming and poetic; because his devotion to the Hoosier Muse has not prevented him, at various times, from holding municipal office, acting as associate editor of a well-known business periodical, and pursuing an active journalistic career; because he is now an editorial writer on the Chicago "Daily News"; and finally because this portrait, by Edward Steichen, his brother-in-law, shows him in company with his wife.

- "We Nominate for the Hall of Fame:", Vanity Fair, November 1923

Edward Steichen, after a period of practical self-exile in France following World War I, became Chief Photographer for Cond Nast Publications in March, 1923. This was a momentous year for the once ubiquitous photographer who had graced the pages of Stieglitz's Camera Work and the walls of 291, acting as the maestro's eyes and ears in Europe. Steichen had been well known both as a painter and photographer but several years after the war he abandoned painting, and his home in Voulangis for a final return to New York (see: Lot 148). Upon his arrival in New York, he found to his surprise that he had been dubbed "The greatest living portrait photographer" in the pages of Vanity Fair, coupled with the sad disclaimer that the former champion had given up his crown for painting. Feeling a need to correct Frank Crowninshield, the editor and probably sensing an opportunity, Steichen wrote him with a more current account of his standing. When they met and Steichen agreed to the offer of the position of Chief Photographer, he already had his salary trump card in his hand. After asking for more than any other photographer had ever been paid, he reminded Crowninshield that it wasn't his idea to be called "The greatest living portrait photographer" in Vanity Fair. Crowninshield capitulated. (See: Steichen, A Life in Photography, chap. 7, "Fashion Photography and Fabric Design", n.p.)

Made during this pivitol year in his career, Steichen's portrait of his sister and brother-in-law communicates the respect he felt for the couple. As he stated, "I have always felt that, when my sister acquired a husband, I acquired a brother. For with that marriage, there began a warm, close friendship, which has remained fruitful and wonderful for both Carl and me to this day." Throughout the years, Steichen and Sandburg shared in many projects including Sandburg's book, Steichen the Photographer and Steichen's 1942 exhibition "Road to Victory" at The Museum of Modern Art, for which Sandburg wrote the text. As a symbiotic relationship, the two men appreciated each other's strengths and collaborated on projects to reflect them. Unlike his later more flashy and dramatic fashion and magazine work, this image of the Sandburgs harks back to Steichen's early more subdued pre-war work, which by the 1920s seemed reserved for intimate, personal portraits. (A Life in Photography, chap. 6, n.p.)

There is another platinum print of this image in The Hallmark Photographic Collection and a silver print in the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York.

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