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Carl Van Vechten : Beyond the Harlem Renaissance : African American Portraits

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Keith de Lellis Gallery celebrates the portraiture of Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880–1964) in its spring current online exhibition. Van Vechten moved to New York City from Chicago in 1906 to pursue a writing career (he would become the first American critic of modern dance while contributing to the New York Times) before dedicating himself to photography. Van Vechten had a lifelong interest in African American culture and was committed to promoting black artists. In the early 1920s, Van Vechten sought out NAACP leader Walter White, who would introduce him to his colleague James Weldon Johnson. Johnson in turn facilitated introductions between Van Vechten and countless key figures in the rising Harlem Renaissance. Van Vechten became a familiar sight in predominantly black spaces, attending formal NAACP banquets as well as Harlem nightclubs and speakeasies. The artist wrote a number of articles championing black writers and performers that would be published in popular publications such as Vanity Fair and the New York Herald Tribune. Upon Van Vechten’s influence, Langston Hughes was taken on by Van Vechten’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, to...

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