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Edward Steichen

photographer, painter

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was an American photographer, painter, and museum curator who helped transform photography into an art form. At the turn of the century his photographs were hailed for their artistic quality. In the 1920s he produced a new style of fashion illustration and portraiture for magazines. Edward Steichen decided to study painting in Paris, and on his way there in 1900 he stopped in New York to meet Alfred Stieglitz, who was America's foremost photographer and leader of a movement to gain for photography recognition as a fine art. They became close friends. Steichen was confounder with Stieglitz of the Photo-Secession, an organization dedicated to photography as a fine art, and its exhibition gallery, called "291." The gallery exhibited photographs and introduced to America paintings, drawings, and sculpture by such modern artists as Paul Czanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Constantin Brancusi. Steichen's photographs were widely exhibited; among the most famous were his portraits of J. P. Morgan and Auguste Rodin. At the age of 68 Steichen was named director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Of the many exhibitions he created, the largest and most famous was "The Family of Man." This exhibition of 503 photographs toured throughout America and overseas. The book of the same title became a best seller. His involvement as a curator helped promote photography to the status of an acknowledged art form. In 1961 Steichen held an exhibition of his own photography at the Museum of Modern Art; a year later he retired to Connecticut. His autobiography, *A Life in Photography*, appeared in 1963, the same year he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy.