Van Vechten, Carl


American writer and photographer, patron of “the Harlem Renaissance”


Autograph ID: 3191
Condition: Very good, slight toning at right edge
Description: “(1880-1964) American writer and photographer, patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein. Born in Iowa, in 1906 moved to New York City, hired as assistant music critic at the New York Times. He became first American critic of modern dance when Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavlova, and Loie Fuller were performing. Several books of essays on various subjects were published between 1915 and 1920. Knopf published 7 of his novels from 1922-30, starting with “Peter Whiffle: His Life and Works” and ending with “Parties”. Van Vechten was interested in black writers and artists, and knew and promoted many of the major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Wallace Thurman. His controversial novel “Nigger Heaven” was published in 1926. An essay of his entitled “Negro Blues Singers” was published in Vanity Fair in 1926. In the 30s, he began taking portrait photographs of James Baldwin, Tallulah Bankhead, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Ruby Dee, Ella Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Frida Kahlo, Norman Mailer, W. Somerset Maugham, Henry Miller, Georgia O’Keeffe, Sir Laurence Olivier, Diego Rivera,, Gertrude Stein, Bessie Smith, Orson Welles, and Anna May Wong, amongst others. Van Vechten initially met Gertrude Stein in Paris in 1913 and continued corresponding for the remainder of Stein’s life; at her death she appointed him her literary executor; and he helped bring into print her unpublished writings.

TLS on his 11 x 8 ½ blue-green black-imprinted personal New York City letterhead, April 13 1953, to Mr. Friedman. Van Vechten is unable to provide “much that is new about Sinclair Lewis”, suggests Friedman wait until he has collected more material and then come to him and he will be glad to talk to Friedman. Probably responding to Philip Allan Friedman who was assisting Harry E. Maule & Melville H. Cane with their 1954 book, “The Man from the Main Street: Selected Essays and Other Writings of Sinclair Lewis”.”
Type: Letter

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