Block Museum receives valuable Steichen photographs

The Block Museum of Art received more than 40 Edward Steichen photographs. The photographs were given to Northwestern in honor of University President Morton Schapiro.

Junnie Kwon/The Daily Northwestern

The Block Museum of Art received more than 40 Edward Steichen photographs. The photographs were given to Northwestern in honor of University President Morton Schapiro.

Junnie Kwon, Reporter

The portrait of Jascha Heifetz and the iconic photograph of the George Washington Bridge are just two of a set of valuable Edward Steichen photographs art collectors donated to the Block Museum of Art, the museum announced last week.

The pair of photographs, temporarily on display at University President Morton Schapiro’s home, was donated to the museum by prominent art collectors Richard and Jackie Hollander in late October.  The Hollanders, who are close friends of the Schapiros, donated a total of 49 silver gelatin prints by Steichen, a renowned celebrity and fashion photographer who worked for Vanity Fair and Vogue in the 20s and 30s, to the Block Museum in honor of Schapiro and his wife Mimi.

The donation was finalized with the University in December. The collectors also donated about 40 prints each to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Although the Hollanders never attended Northwestern, their close relationship with the Schapiro family secured their decision in choosing the University as one of the three recipients of the photographs, said Lisa Corrin, Ellen Philips Katz Director for the Block Museum.

“We really owe our president a great thank you for having the confidence in the Block (Museum) and belief in the role of arts in education at Northwestern,” said Corrin, who previously worked with Schapiro and the Hollanders at Williams College. “Because of their great respect for Morty and his advocacy for the Block (Museum), they chose us.”

Schapiro wrote in an email to The Daily on Sunday that the Hollanders are among his family’s “closest friends.”

The Block Museum staff kept the project in the NU family by hiring alumnus Elliot Reichert (Weinberg ’10) as curatorial project manager. He said curating the upcoming exhibition of Steichen photographs has been the biggest responsibility of his career.

“(I felt) a little bit of terror, but after the terror, euphoria,” he said.

The exhibition will feature a comparison between the photographs by Steichen and Andy Warhol, whose pictures were donated to the museum by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The two photographers are universally recognized for their influence in Hollywood and fashion photography. The museum plans to display the exhibition from Sept. 20 to Dec. 1.

The very different styles of the two photographers will provide an interesting contrast, Corrin said.

“(Steichen) could make someone plain-looking look extremely beautiful,” Corrin said. “Andy Warhol did the opposite by shooting polaroids with bright lighting so the celebrity would always look shocked.”

Block Museum’s mission has historically been dedicated to the growth and study of reproducible art forms, which include prints, photographs and film. Although the museum currently houses thousands of prints, it is in the process of bolstering its photography collection, Reichert said.

Although the donation has had a “transformative” effect on the Block Museum and its efforts toward developing its photographic repertoire, Corrin said the impact of the Steichen photographs will extend beyond NU’s campus and into Chicago.

The donation has heightened the energy around the museum office, Reichert said.

“There’s a lot of excitement at the Block (Museum) lately,” he said. “Everyone’s kind of kicked it into high gear.”