Marian Anderson

Artist: Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923–2004 San Antonio, Texas)

Date: 1955

Medium: Gelatin silver print

Dimensions: 26.5 x 34.2 cm (10 7/16 x 13 7/16 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1961

Accession Number: 61.565.2

Rights and Reproduction: © The Richard Avedon Foundation

Description

Here is the great contralto singer Marian Anderson. By waiting for the moment when Anderson closed her eyes, Avedon was able to suggest her intense inner concentration on the song and to allow us, the viewer, to focus on her mouth. Even if the viewer knows nothing about Marian Anderson, one can still see in this photograph the total commitment to her voice, that she was the very embodiment of song. And if in fact the viewer is aware of the social context of the photograph—that Anderson fought in a very quiet and effective way to be heard in the 1930s, despite attempts by the Daughters of the American Revolution to prevent her from singing at Washington D.C.'s DAR-owned Constitution Hall because of her race, which caused First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to resign from the organization—one would be able to detect a kind of moral probity and strength in this portrait as well.

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