Urgent Museum Notice

Eva Le Gallienne

Close up of Eva Le Gallienne

Black and white photo of Eva Le Gallienne seated on a dark chair, her head shifts left. Dark tones dominate the photograph, drawing focus to her illuminated face and hands, which are balanced by a glimpse of the room behind her. Her arms draped in ornately decorated sleeves, reach right.

Berenice Abbott, Eva Le Gallienne, ca. 1927; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

Eva Le Gallienne
Berenice Abbott

Abbott was staunchly committed to the documentary approach to photography: “If a medium is representational by nature of the realistic image formed by the lens, I see no reason why we should stand on our heads to distort that function.”

Unlike pictorialists, who often used painterly techniques to flatter their subjects, Abbott preferred to present her sitters as they actually appeared. For Abbott, the creative aspect of portrait photography was the pursuit of her subject’s “character,” often through props, unusual poses, and dramatic lighting.

Abbott’s portrait of American actress and director Eva Le Gallienne communicates the intensity of Le Gallienne’s personality through her radically asymmetrical pose and disheveled hair. The contrast between the dark tones dominating the photograph and Le Gallienne’s illuminated face and hands enhance the drama. Le Gallienne also looks away from the camera, displaying her lack of interest in posing prettily—one of Abbott’s favorite compositional devices. This image was made soon after London-born Le Gallienne founded the Civic Repertory Theatre, which produced classic foreign plays for American audiences in New York.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Berenice Abbott
  • Title

    Eva Le Gallienne
  • Date

    ca. 1927
  • Medium

    Vintage silver print
  • Dimensions

    3 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • Photo Credit

    © Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics
  • On Display