Portrait of Clarence H. White

Accession Number

Portrait of Clarence H. White

Edward Steichen

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
photogravure on paper

11 7/8 in x 8 1/2 in x 9/16 in (30.16 cm x 21.59 cm x 1.43 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of The Morris and Beverly Baker Foundation, in memory of Morris D. Baker, a graduate of The University of Michigan School of Architecture, 1952

Label copy
Steichen’s portrait of photographer Clarence H. White reflects their shared interest in pictorialism and its concern for modes of depiction derived from painting. White is shown leaning forward on his hand, his features emerging from the surrounding shadows. His pose, deep-set eyes, and unruly hair are reminiscent of the conventions of romantic portraiture from the preceding century.
Clarence H. White was one of the founding members of the Photo-Secession group and a contributor to Camera Work. White became known as a widely influential teacher, first teaching at Columbia University’s Teacher College, then founding his own school in New York City in 1914, the Clarence H. White School of Photography. The School, which continued until 1942, drew many young artists interested in art photography, including Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Paul Outerbridge, Jr., Karl Struss, Ralph Steiner, and Paul J. Woolf. White’s belief that art reflected the artist’s personality, emotions, and vision shaped the philosophy of the School.
Carole McNamara, Assistant Director for Collections & Exhibitions
on the occasion of the exhibition New York Observed: The Mythology of the City
(July 13 – September 22, 2003)

Subject matter
This moody and dramatic portrait of Clarence H. White mimics conventions of traditional portraiture in painting. White looks out of frame, directly at the viewer. He rests his left hand on his chin with a serious expression. White's light skin contrasts against the dark shadows, making his face and hand the focal point of the image. There is little tonal variation in the majority of the print, as it is comprised mostly of shadows. His face seems to emerge from these shadows, light falling across the side of his face, creating a pronounced chiaroscuro. 

Physical Description
This image is a single-sitter portrait featuring dramatic shadows and chiaroscuro. The sitter, Clarence H. White, leans forward and rests his chin on his hand. 

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

cast shadows
indoor photography
portrait format
single-sitter portraits

2 Related Resources

History of Western Sexuality and Gender Roles
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Photographic Portraiture 1900-1948
(Part of: Identity and Self-Understanding)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved