Marian Anderson, contralto, New York

Richard Avedon American

Not on view

As the great contralto Marian Anderson closes her eyes to focus on the music, Avedon fixes ours on her. She sings the Giuseppe Verdi piece she had performed months earlier at the Metropolitan Opera, when she became the first Black singer to take its stage. The photographer’s studio is sterile by comparison, but the white background—an Avedon trademark—trains attention on Anderson, accentuating the contour of her head and the tendrils of her hair. Though the photograph predates this exhibition’s group portraits, it anticipates the formal innovation of those works, particularly in its treatment of pictorial space. Avedon crops his subject such that she appears to burst forth from the frame—a choice he explained as "emphasiz[ing] the power and vitality" of Anderson’s art.

Marian Anderson, contralto, New York, Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923–2004 San Antonio, Texas), Gelatin silver print

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