Biographical/historical: Author, critic and photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was born to a wealthy family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He moved to New York City in 1906 and worked as a music critic for The New York Times and later became its first modern dance critic. Van Vechten also photographed many African-American artists and performers, as well as ethnic dancers. He died in his sleep in New York City at age 84.
Content: The Carl Van Vechten Slides collection contains approximately 2,800 mounted color slides, mostly of dancers (primarily ballet), photographed by Carl Van Vechten in his studio, from 1940 to 1964. Some modern, African-American, ethnic dancers, and choreographers are also included. Dancers are usually dressed in costumes from ballets or other dances, but costumes were sometimes improvised or devised by Van Vechten. There are also some frontispieces, such as posters, still life objects and outdoor scenes.
A few performers and choreographers in the collection include Agnes de Mille, Anton Dolin, Katherine Dunham, Martha Graham, Nora Kaye, Hugh Laing, Avon Long, Alicia Markova, Pearl Primus, Ni Gusti Raka, Bill Robinson, Donald Saddler, Paul Taylor, and Carmen Vasquez. Costume designer Barbara Karinska, impresario Lincoln Kirstein and lighting designer Jean Rosenthal are also among Van Vechten's subjects.
Slides of Violette Verdy were photographed by Saul Mauriber, Van Vechten's assistant.