What Would Carl Van Vechten Tweet?

September 9, 2016

By Nancy Kuhl

Though writer, photographer, cultural critic, and modernist-era taste-maker Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) is celebrated today for a great many achievements, we count his founding of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters at Yale University among his most lasting contributions to American arts and culture. As the Johnson Memorial Collection celebrates its 75th year, we honor this innovative and forward-looking collector in a way we think he might enjoy…

Known among friends for ending his letters with intimate, witty, extravagant valedictions, we’ll share our favorites on this page throughout the year. Check back frequently to see the latest, or follow us on twitter @YCAL_JWJ #CVVSignsOff.

Special thanks to Bruce Kellner, friend of Carl Van Vechten and of the James Weldon Johnson Collection, whose Letters of Carl Van Vechten (New Haven: Yale UP, 1987) is our indispensable resource.

Visit the James Weldon Johnson Memorial CollectionView examples of Carl Van Vechten’s portraits of African American writers and artists. To join our year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, follow us on twitter for news and notices @YCAL_JWJ #YearofJWJ.

Carl Van Vechten signs off:

“768 white penguin feathers for 76 black swans to you! (and an owl)” to Langston Hughes, 3/20/34

“Plum jelly, hazelnuts, and a quart of cream!” to Walter Van Vechten, ca. 4/17/45

“567 white hyacinths in jade pots to you both!” to Gertrude Stein, 11/10/34

“The carnations were long, the lilies were lovely, and so is Blanche.” to Blanche Knopf, 5/29