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July 21, 2021

James Van Der Zee’s Photographs: A Portrait of Harlem

James Van Der Zee, 'Portrait of a Couple'

James Van Der Zee, Portrait of a Couple, 1924
gelatin silver print, image/sheet: 25.2 × 20.2 cm (9 15/16 × 7 15/16 in.), mat: 50.8 × 40.6 cm (20 × 16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel Fund, 2000.83.1

National Gallery of Art, November 28, 2021–May 31, 2022

Photographer James Van Der Zee (1886–1983) created an extraordinary chronicle of Black life in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood during the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. James Van Der Zee’s Photographs: A Portrait of Harlem presents some 40 works from the National Gallery’s collection, providing a window into life in Harlem during the first half of the 20th century. Harlem residents flocked to Van Der Zee’s studio to pose for portraits against elaborate backdrops and to mark milestones in their lives. The exhibition highlights these portraits, as well as Van Der Zee’s photographs of the community—from Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, to Harlem nightclubs and storefronts—revealing how Van Der Zee’s pictures, and the photographer himself, played a formative role in the life of this historic neighborhood.

The exhibition is curated by Diane Waggoner, curator of 19th-century photographs, National Gallery of Art.

Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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