Living Portraits: Carl Van Vechten's Color Photographs of African Americans, 1939-1964

Thursday, April 30, 2009 (All day) to Tuesday, June 30, 2009 (All day)

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) had an artistic vision rooted in the centrality of the talented person. He cherished accomplishment, whether in music, dance, theater, fine art, literature, sport, or advocacy. He began to make photographic portraits in 1932; in 1939 he discovered newly available color film. For a quarter century, he invited friends and acquaintances, well-known artists and fledgling entertainers to sit for him, often against backdrops reminiscent of the vivid colors and patterns of a Matisse painting. Among his subjects were a very young Diahann Carroll, Billie Holiday in tears, Paul Robeson as Othello, and a procession of opera stars, composers, authors, musicians, and others who made notable contributions to the cultural life of the country. The exhibition includes 140 full-sized portraits, digitally reformatted from Van Vechten's original slides. [ca. 140 items]
Selected images from the Carl Van Vechten Photograph Collection
For information on the exhibition opening lecture, please visit:



Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
121 Wall Street | New Haven, CT 06511
Campus Map

Tel: (203) 432-2977    Fax: (203) 432-4047

USPS: Mailing Address and Information

email: Ask a Librarian




The exhibition gallery is closed while the library's building is under renovation.

Temporary Reading Room Hours 
Monday - Friday: 9 am to 4:45 pm

The temporary reading room is located in Yale's Sterling Memorial Library, across Wall Street from the Beinecke.

Holiday Schedule and Closed Collections Schedule