Star Power: Edward Steichen’s Glamour Photography

Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery

The photographer and painter Edward Steichen is famous for introducing modernism to America by sending the work of avant-garde European artists back to his friend Alfred Stieglitz in New York for exhibition. Thus, he was already well-known on both sides of the Atlantic when, in early 1923, he was offered one of the most prestigious and lucrative positions in photography’s commercial domain—that of chief photographer for Condé Nast’s stylish and influential magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair. For the next fifteen years, Steichen put his exceptional talents, prodigious energies, and modernist sensibilities to work creating glamorous images of celebrities such as Gloria Swanson, Katharine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, and other Hollywood luminaries and cultural icons from the 1920s and ’30s.

Organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Star Power brings together over one hundred of Steichen’s Condé Nast portraits of luminaries from the worlds of politics, literature, government, journalism, dance, theatre, music, fashion, and the opera. These images reveal Steichen’s striking modernist aesthetic, enormous technical skill, and uncanny ability to reveal the inner lives of his subjects. More, this exhibition gives us the opportunity to explore two distinct art mediums: photography and fashion. Images of designs from storied labels such as Chanel, Lanvin, and Schiaparelli reveal the elegance and inventiveness of the period in fashion.

Programs for the exhibition will aim both to capture the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age and to put the images in historical and cultural context. As the Roaring ’20s gave way to the sober years of the Great Depression, Hollywood’s influence on popular culture became more and more pronounced. Throughout the country, people sought information about and images of their favorite stars in magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair, the very magazines for which Steichen served as image-maker. As the Depression wore on, Americans made Hollywood films and popular magazines the vehicles by which they escaped the grim realities of the day.

The exhibition, which has enjoyed enormous popularity both in the United States and abroad, will be installed at Reynolda House in order to draw parallels between Hollywood’s Golden Age and the Golden Age of Reynolda. The period covered by the exhibition, 1923–1937, includes Katharine Reynolds’s final years at the estate and the first years of her daughter Mary Babcock’s ownership. Mary’s new design schemes for the house included adding updated furniture such as director-style chairs by Jean-Michel Frank. Moreover, both Katharine and Mary were fashionable women who added to their wardrobes as they traveled, often purchasing designs by the very labels Steichen chose for his models. By including costumes from Reynolda’s collection and objects from the historic house in the gallery, the exhibition will demonstrate that the members of the glamorous Reynolds family were image-makers and cultural icons in our area, much as Steichen was in Hollywood and New York.


This exhibition has been organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis, in collaboration with Reynolda House Museum of American Art. 

Reynolda House is grateful for the generous support of Major Sponsor Charles H. Babcock, Jr. Arts and Community Initiative Endowment; Contributing Sponsor Hanesbrands; and Exhibition Partners Linda and Ed Kelly and Macy’s.