Block Museum receives gift of Edward Steichen photographs

Amelia Langas, Reporter

Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art received a gift of 44 Edward Steichen photographs from art collectors Richard and Jackie Hollander late last year.

Steichen is a 20th-century American artist who pushed photography’s potential, Block’s associate director of curatorial affairs Kathleen Berzock said.

“(Steichen) was one of the first photographers to use (photography) for commercial purposes and for purposes during wartime,” she said. “He did aerial photography and worked during World War II, photographing from the air to help advance the military objectives.”

Berzock said Steichen is best known for his photos of early Hollywood celebrities, who influenced what people think of today as “glamor.” He was also interested in abstract elements that are associated with the modernist movement and playing with light, Berzock said.

The 44 photographs gifted to Block add to the museum’s existing collection, which now contains 93 Steichen photographs, Block director Lisa Corrin said. In 2013, the Hollanders donated 49 Steichen prints to Block.

The museum now has a broad collection of Steichen’s work with pieces touching every area of the artist’s career, enabling Block to tell the full story of Steichen’s contribution to art history, Corrin said.

“We’ve never been able to do this with another photographer in the collection … the Steichens are the most comprehensive snapshot of the work of an iconic photographer,” she said.

The expansive collection now displays photography as a medium, and the evolution of Steichen as a photographer, said Lindsay Bosch, the museum’s communications manager.

“That is very appealing to donors, this idea that the works donated to the museum will have a life,” she said. “They won’t be put in storage and they’ll have the opportunity to be in conversation with multiple other works and really kind of have a great continued usage.”

Pieces in the museum are studied and placed in interdisciplinary research in fields across Northwestern, Bosch said.

Art collectors understand that donating to Block ensures the works will be analyzed and appreciated, Bosch said. Having more work by Steichen allows the museum to use the pieces to discuss and compare them with other pieces from around the world or during the same time period, she said.

Every time art is given to Block and made accessible to the public, it is a cause for celebration, Corrin said.

“We’re very fortunate at Northwestern that there is an art collection on campus that students and faculty can incorporate into teaching and learning,” Corrin said. “The Block is looking forward to sharing this new gift with the campus community.”

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