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VanDerZee is best known for the studio portraits he made in Harlem after World War I. His sensitivity and the pride he felt from living and working within the community are clear in elegant and graceful images that challenged prevailing stereotypes. The sitter in "Evening Attire" is dressed in a beaded evening gown, an elegant, full hat, and a fox tail wrap; she holds a spray of flowers. Her stance, coupled with the backdrop, the brocade table cover, and a decorative figurine, evokes formal Victorian home interiors seen in Edwardian portraiture and nineteenth-century cartes de visite, the small photographs people used as calling cards in the late nineteenth century.

Details

  • Title: Evening Attire
  • Creator: James VanDerZee
  • Date Created: 1922
  • Physical Dimensions: 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program
  • Artist: Born Lenox, MA 1886 – Died Washington, D.C. 1983
  • Medium: gelatin silver print

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