Carl van Vechten

Carl Van Vechten ( born June 17, 1880 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, † December 21, 1964 in New York ) was an American photographer and author. He was known as a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance and as trustee of the literary legacy of the American author, publisher and art patron Gertrude Stein.


Van Vechten completed his studies at the University of Chicago in 1903, three years after he moved to New York City where he worked as a journalist. After an early but unhappy first marriage, he married in 1914 his second wife, actress Fania Marinoff. Although he was married to her until his death, he was a homosexual. This has been known as one some held under lock and key documents and photographs took 25 years after his death in inspection. Gertrude Stein he first met in Paris in 1913, they were his life in contact, and before her death she decreed that Van Vechten should manage their literary estate. He helped to find a publisher for unpublished works. Similarly, he also supported the African- American writer Nella Larsen.

Unlike Langston Hughes, he found himself in his old age, nor the power to sit during the Cold War in the 1950s against the anti-communist propaganda by Senator McCarthy to defend without having distanced himself from his views.

In 1961, Van Vechten was appointed a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York.

The writer

Between 1915 and 1920 several books of essays by van Vechten appeared, the subjects were, for example, music and literature. In 1920 he published his book about cats, The Tiger in The House. Between 1922 and 1930 seven novels were published.

Van Vechten was very interested in African-American writers and artists, and supported many of the important representatives of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. However, unlike Charlotte Mason he used his charges far more amicable relations.

His controversial novel Nigger Heaven published in 1926, it is about the unbridled and obscene nightlife of Harlem, the van Vechten described with many details. Especially from established critics, black as white, had van Vechten criticism plug it in, for example, that he would describe the negative stereotypes of African Americans and the novel a " affront to the hospitality of the blacks and the intelligence of whites is " ( WEB Du Bois ). However, the novel was a best-seller, who brought the wild life of Harlem in the living room and reading rooms. Especially young artists within the Harlem Renaissance defended van Vechten.

Van Vechtens Mabel Dodge Luhan friendship with Gertrude Stein and other personalities can be found in the autobiographical essays Sacred and Profane Memories, published in 1932.

The majority of the letters and documents of van Vechten are to be found in the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

The Photographer

In the 1930s, Van Vechten began with photographic work. Its main plant is located in "The Carl Van Vechten Photographs Collection" at the National Library of the United States, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, before. It contains 1395 photographs of the year 1932 to 1964. The largest part of the work consists of portrait photographs of celebrities, including representatives of the Harlem Renaissance. A small part of the collection shows American landscapes.

Works (selection)


Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera

Man Ray

James Stewart