Classroom Use

Article excerpt


The subject of this portrait is Theodor Seuss Geisel (1902-1991), known best as "Dr. Seuss," writer and illustrator of children's books. It is made up of two photographs that have been torn apart and the pieces rearranged. This combination was then rephotographed to create the final portrait.

Arnold Newman, the photographer, used this unusual approach to portraiture to capture the uniqueness of Geisel's personality and artistry. Throughout his life, this artist-author continually did unusual things, of which the Dr. Seuss children's books are the best known. Newman used the opportunity of this portrait to convey the gentle, humorous character of this man who exploited his talents for the pleasure of others.


* As a teen-ager, Newman wanted to be a painter but had to take a job to make a living instead of going to college. Luckily, he was hired to work for portrait photography stores. It was from these experiences that he discovered his love for photography and decided to follow that profession.

He early admired the work of American painters such as Edward Hopper, Reginald Marsh and Raphael Soyer. He also came to admire the work of such photographers as Walker Evans, Edward Steichen and Man Ray, although his own photographic style became very different from theirs.

* Newman's photographs first became known after a visit to New York where he met Alfred Steiglitz, famous for his photographs and also a mentor of young, talented artists. Through Steiglitz, Newman's photographs were included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This exhibition helped launch him to the forefront of young photographers and enabled him to be given assignments from some of the major magazines of the time, such as Life, Holiday, Look and Harper's Bazaar.

* Arnold Newman's reputation is based mainly on his work as a portrait artist. Throughout his long and successful career, he has photographed numbers of the most distinguished people in the world. They include President Lyndon B. Johnson, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and scientist Vannevar Bush.

Yet, it is through his portraits of creative artists that viewers can best appreciate his admiration and understanding of their sensitivities toward the world around them. They include painter Jacob Lawrence, musician Wynton Marsalis and poet Carl Sandberg.

* Arnold Newman's close association with artists has been life-long. He is of the opinion that a good painter can always be a good photographer if he so decides, largely because the techniques of photography are really as easy as driving a car. The test for any photographer, then, is first to think as an artist.

* Newman distinguished between painting and photography by claiming that each responds to different kinds of truth: "Painting uses creative distortion, photography uses creative selection." As a result, a subject being photographed is reduced to a moment frozen in time, while a painter has complete control over what appears on his canvas.

* Whenever he is asked to make a portrait, Newman first learns as much as possible about his sitter. He does this by visiting with them, reading about them, and talking with their friends. During the actual sitting, he tries to place subjects in the places that best describe them and their accomplishments. A sculptor may be in his workshop or beside one of his sculptures. A king is likely to be on his throne. A musician may be in a studio or concert hall.

Before taking any pictures, he waits until his sitter relaxes and falls into a natural pose. He then takes as many shots as he feels are enough in the time available, later eliminating all that do not capture the personality of the sitter. …