Published January 1, 1927
Constantin Brancusi has been called the father of modern abstract sculpture, a title the artist shrugged off. He worked in idealized shapes, reducing his subjects to the simplest of forms. Pictured here is his sculpture 'The Bird.' Photograph by Edward Steichen in the January 1927 Vanity Fair.
(Luxembourger, 1879-1973) An active painter and a pioneer of photography until 1965. He began by studying pictorialist photography, and his early work expressed the romanticism of the early 20th century with artful, dark, and foggy images of the countryside. In 1902 he met fellow photographer Alfred Stieglitz and showed 14 of his works in Stieglitz's "American Photography" exhibition. Together they founded the Photo-Secession, a group of photographers who helped elevate photography to the status of fine art and sculpture, and the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue, later simply known as 291. Steichen then moved to Paris and produced an extraordinary series of pigment prints of his friend Auguste Rodin and his sculpture.Steichen's return to New York yielded impressionistic photographs of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Flatiron Building, still strongly under Steiglitz's influence. His portraits were also heavily "doctored": his self-portrait, for example, is so reworked that it is barely distinguishable from an etching or lithograph. After World War I he continued experimenting with photographic techniques to capture the exact value, scale, and weight of such ordinary objects as an apple or white cup and saucer. By the 1930s he established himself as a fashion photographer by taking some of the most memorable celebrity portraits of Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Paul Robeson, and George Gershwin. Other accomplishments include serving as the director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art until 1962 and creating "Family of Man,"an exhibition of more than 500 photographs depicting images of love, life, and death. His work can be found in museum collections around the world.