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James Van Der Zee: Studio

Main Gallery

March 7 - April 27

James Van Der Zee - Woman and Roses, 1930 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Woman and Roses, 1930

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1930 

9 3/4 x 7 5/8 inches 

 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (dancer holding scarf), 1924 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, 1924 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924 

10 x 8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Entertainment Team, 1946 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Entertainment Team, 1946 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1946 

7 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Tap Dancing, 1959 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Tap Dancing, 1959 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1959 

6 3/8 x 4 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Lady with Roses, 1936 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Lady with Roses, 1936 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936 

10 x 8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled, 1931 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, 1931 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1931 

9 3/4 x 7 5/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Blue Belle, c.1940 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Blue Belle, c.1940 

Hand-colored gelatin silver print; printed c.1940 

10 x 8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Soldier, 1944 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Soldier, 1944 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1944

9 5/8 x 7 9/16 inches 

 

James Van Der Zee - Special Occasion, 1935 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Special Occasion, 1935 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1935 

6 3/4 x 4 5/8 inches 

James Van der Zee - Untitled, c.1925 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, c.1925

Gelatin silver print on carte postale; printed c.1925 

6 x 4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Boxer's Stance #5, 1950s - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Boxer's Stance #5, 1950s 

Gelatin silver print; printed 1950s

4 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Mock Wedding, c.1930 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Mock Wedding, c.1930 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1930 

6 x 4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Little John, c.1935 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Little John, c.1935 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1935 

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Her Best Friend, 1940 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Her Best Friend, 1940 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1940 

8 x 4 7/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Portrait of a Couple, c.1930 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Portrait of a Couple, c.1930 

Gelatin silver print with hand-coloring; printed c.1930 

6 5/8 x 4 7/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Posing at the beach, c.1925 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Posing at the Beach, c.1925 

Gelatin silver postcard print; printed c.1925 

3 1/4 x 4 5/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Marcus Garvey with George O. Marke and Prince Kojo Tovalou-Houénou, 1924 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Marcus Garvey with George O. Marke and Prince Kojo Tovalou-Houénou, 1924 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924 

5 x 7 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Mother and Children, c.1930 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Mother and Children, c.1930 

Gelatin silver print on carte postale; printed c.1930 

5 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Strolling, 1925 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Strolling, 1925 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1925 

6 5/8 x 5 7/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Marcus Garvey Parade (soldiers marching in the street as band plays on), 1924 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Marcus Garvey Parade (soldiers marching in street as band plays on), 1924 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924 

4 5/8 x 6 7/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Elks, 1931 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Elks, 1931 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1931 

8 x 9 7/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Funeral Down Street, 1930 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Funeral Down Street, 1930 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1930 

4 3/4 x 6 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Lenox Avenue at 118th Street, 1940 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Lenox Avenue at 118th Street, 1940 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1940

5 5/8 x 9 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Travelers Restaurant, c.1935 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Travelers Restaurant, c.1935 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1935 

7 5/8 x 9 5/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Harlem Store Front, 1934 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Harlem Store Front, 1934 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1934 

8 x 10 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Broadway Delicatessen, c.1925 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Broadway Delicatessen, c.1925 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1925 

9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - The Lincoln Grill, 1926 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

The Lincoln Grill, 1926 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1969 

6 1/4 x 7 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Capital Grill Restaurant, c.1940 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Capital Grill Restaurant, c.1940 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1940 

6 1/2 x 9 1/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - G.G.G. Photo Studio, 2077 7th Avenue, c.1941 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

G.G.G. Photo Studio, 2077 7th Avenue, c.1941 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1941 

7 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (group of people in uniforms), c.1936 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, c.1936 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936 

7 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Assembly, Det. Coachman's Building, 1924 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Assembly, Det. Coachman's Building, 1924 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924 

8 x 9 5/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Church Group with U.S. Flag, n.d. - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Church Group with U.S. Flag, c.1924 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924

8 x 10 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Soft Shoulders, c.1920s - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Soft Shoulders, c.1920s 

Hand-colored gelatin silver print; printed c.1920s

6 3/4 x 6 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (young woman with cat against painted studio background), c.1925 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, c.1925 

Gelatin silver print on carte postale; printed c.1925 

3 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Young Girl with Dog, 1921 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Young Girl with Dog, 1921 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1921 

4 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Miss Grace Brooke, 1935 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Miss Grace Brooke, 1935 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1935 

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Bobby Sabu, Lightweight Golden Gloves Champ, 1954 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Bobby Sabu, Lightweight Golden Gloves Champ, 1954 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1954 

6 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Golden Glove Boxer, c.1954 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Golden Glove Boxer, c.1954 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1954 

6 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Beauty and the Beast, 1932 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Beauty and the Beast, 1932 

Gelatin silver print with hand-coloring; printed c.1932 

6 5/8 x 4 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (child on telephone), 1923 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled (child on telephone), 1923 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1923 

10 x 8 inches 

 

James Van Der Zee - Violinist, c.1956 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Violinist, c.1956 

Gelatin silver print with hand-coloring; printed c.1956 

9 3/8 x 7 inches 

James Van der Zee - Untitled, 1931 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, 1931

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1931

6 3/4 x 4 3/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Wedding Couple, 1934 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Wedding Couple, 1934 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1934 

10 x 8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Daisy, 1931 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Daisye, 1931 

Gelatin silver print with hand-coloring; printed c.1931 

6 x 4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (young woman in front of painted backdrop of fireplace), c.1925 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, c.1925 

Gelatin silver print on carte postale; printed c.1925 

5 7/16 x 3 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (Woman with birdcage and glass bowl), 1923 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled (woman with birdcage and glass bowl), 1923 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1923 

6 x 4 1/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Nude with Butterfly, 1936 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Nude with Butterfly, 1936 

Gelatin silver print; printed later 

9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Eve's Daughter, c.1920 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Eve's Daughter, c.1920 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1920

6 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (Woman standing next to chair), 1930 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, 1930 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1930 

6 5/8 x 4 5/8 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Untitled (woman in white lingerie, tying shoe), n.d. - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Untitled, c.1923

Gelatin silver print on carte postale; printed c.1923

4 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Casual Comfort, 1931 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Casual Comfort, 1931 

Gelatin silver print with hand-coloring; printed c.1931 

6 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Lady with Two Corsages, 1935 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Lady with Two Corsages, 1935 

Gelatin silver print with hand-coloring; printed c.1935 

10 x 8 inches 

 

James Van Der Zee - Charles and Company, 1936 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Charles and Company, 1936 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1936 

8 x 6 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Wedding Party, 1923 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Wedding Party, 1923 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1923 

8 x 10 inches 

James Van Der Zee - Service with a Smile, c.1930 - Howard Greenberg Gallery - 2019

Service with a Smile, c.1930 

Gelatin silver print; printed c.1930 

6 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches 

Press Release

NEW YORK— James Van Der Zee, the celebrated African American photographer whose studio was at the crossroads of the Harlem Renaissance, depicted the lives of black New Yorkers for decades. Forty of his influential portraits will be on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery from March 7- April 27, 2019. Spanning the 1920s through the 1950s, James Van Der Zee: Studio marks the photographer’s first exhibition in New York in over 15 years, providing a window into his legendary studio and the vast archive he created of Harlem’s cultural history. Van Der Zee’s inclusion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Harlem on My Mind exhibition in 1969 brought his work to a new audience, securing his reputation as one of the great photographers of the 20th century. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, March 7, from 6 – 8 p.m.

 

When James Van Der Zee opened his photography studio on 135th Street in 1918, a new era was beginning in Harlem, a time when jazz, poetry, art, and literature all flourished. Capturing the glamour of the burgeoning arts and music scenes as well as everyday life, Van Der Zee became known as the eye of the Harlem Renaissance.


Unique among portrait photographers, Van Der Zee used painted backdrops and luxurious props, creating elaborate tableaux for his subjects and bathing them in flattering lighting. After developing his photographs, he would at times take out his paintbrushes and carefully hand color his images. Highlighting the elegance and refinement of his subjects was his mission, be it Marcus Garvey, the noted civil rights activist and politician, or multiple generations celebrating a family event. 

 

While known predominantly for his portraits, Van Der Zee also chronicled the streets around him. The exhibition will include his photographs showing Harlem storefronts, parades, and church groups, providing a glimpse of the era’s quotidian elements of life. Together with his portraits, they give viewers the most complete picture available of lives lived in Harlem for over a half a century. 

 

James Van Der Zee’s legacy has inspired numerous contemporary artists, among them Lorna Simpson, who referenced Van Der Zee’s props in her recent photography; Dawoud Bey, who attended the 1969 Metropolitan Museum exhibition as a 16-year-old and was deeply affected; and Barry Jenkins, the director of the 2019 Oscar-nominated film If Beale Street Could Talk.

 

“Seeing Van Der Zee’s photographs of ordinary African Americans marked the beginning of my own aspirations,” notes Dawoud Bey, whose work will be subject of a traveling exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art next year. “Certainly my early Harlem, USA photographs sought to portray the Harlem residents of the 1970s with a dignity that I first encountered in his work.”

 

About James Van Der Zee
James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) was born in Lenox, Massachusetts. At the age of 14, he received his first camera and took hundreds of photographs of his family and the town of Lenox. In 1916, he moved to Harlem just as large numbers of black migrants and immigrants were arriving there. He set up his first portrait studio in his sister’s music conservatory and two years later, with his second wife, Gaynella Greenlee, established the Guarantee Photo Studio in Harlem. Quickly Van Der Zee became the most successful photographer in Harlem. Early 20th century entertainer/dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and renowned poet Countee Cullen were among his more prominent subjects.


In 1969, the art world finally took notice when Van Der Zee’s work formed the centerpiece of the Harlem on My Mind exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although the exhibition was controversial and its many shortcomings caused anger in the black community, it did have a powerful effect on his career. Many in turn promoted his work in exhibitions around the nation. He and his images were also the subject of numerous books and documentaries. In the few years before his death, encouraged by his third wife, Donna Van Der Zee, whom he married in 1978 and who manages his estate, Van Der Zee came out of retirement to photograph luminaries such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miles Davis, and Muhammad Ali. In 1993, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. exhibited his work as a posthumous tribute.