James Van Der Zee

James Van Der Zee - Couple, Harlem 1932

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Rare Fine Art Print

Size: Paper 25" x 29" / Image 23" x 18.25"

Text Below Image: VanDerZee; Photographer; 1886 • 1883; National Portrait Gallery; Smithsonian Institution; Washington, D. C.; October 22, 1993 - February 13, 1994

Posed on a residential street in Harlem, New York, this stylish couple is cocooned in signifiers of success: their luxurious automobile, his-and-hers raccoon coats, and serene expressions together create a powerful aura of contentment. Their Cadillac V-16, a top-of-the-line model sold from 1930 to 1940, is the star of the picture. Both expensive and exclusive—only about four thousand were made—each car came with a chassis customized for its owner. The lustrous paint and gleaming chrome of this convertible exemplify the couple’s wealth and security, rarities in the United States during the Great Depression.

Van Der Zee was the most successful portrait photographer working in Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s. During that period, known as the Harlem Renaissance