Chim: David Seymour's Humanist Photography
National Gallery of Art, home page
Image: David Seymour (Chim), Arturo Toscanini in His Home, Milan, 1954, gelatin silver print, printed 1982 David Seymour (Chim)
Arturo Toscanini in His Home, Milan, 1954
gelatin silver print, printed 1982
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Ben Shneiderman
© David Seymour Estate/Magnum Photos

Italy

Arturo Toscanini in His Home, Milan

Arturo Toscanini did not like to be photographed, but his daughter, with her father's consent, invited Chim to their home in Milan to photograph the 87-year-old maestro in the year he retired as music director of the immensely popular NBC Symphony Orchestra. It was a treat for Chim, an aficionado of classical music who, before changing paths in his student days, had first studied to be a concert pianist.

This moving portrait juxtaposes the vigorous but aged conductor seated at the keyboard with the haunting death masks of three of his inspirations: Beethoven (mostly obscured), Verdi, and Wagner. Toscanini would be the first subject in a series of Chim's portraits of aged men who in their life's work had raised the spirit of humankind.