Rare portrait of the Music School, Fisk University, Nashville, TN, May 14, 1957 by Carl Van Vechten, January 12, 1949, studio and blindstamp, 10' x 7'. Light stain at top.
Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 - December 21, 1964) was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he graduated from the University of Chicago in 1903. In 1906, he moved to New York City. He worked as a journalist. After an earlier, unsuccessful marriage, Van Vechten wed actress Fania Marinoff in 1914.
Several books of Van Vechten's essays on various subjects such as music and literature were published between 1915 and 1920. In 1922 and 1930 seven novels were published, 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. Van Vechten's 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 1930s, Van Vechten began taking portrait photographs. Among the many individuals he photographed were Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Marc Chagall, Horst P. Horst, and Billie Holiday.
Van Vechten initially met Gertrude Stein in Paris in 1913. They continued corresponding for the remainder of Stein's life, and at her death she appointed Van Vechten her literary executor; he helped to bring into print her unpublished writings.
After the 1930s, Van Vechten published little writing, though he continued to write letters to many correspondents. Most of Van Vechten's papers are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University.
Although Van Vechten was married to Fania Marinoff through the end of his life, he was a homosexual. Some of his papers were kept under seal for 25 years after his death, and when they were examined after that time, they were found to include scrapbooks of photographs and clippings related to homosexuality.
He died at the age of 84 in New York City.
$4 No. 156