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Evening Attire

1922 James VanDerZee Born: Lenox, Massachusetts 1886 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 1983 gelatin silver print sheet: 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program 1994.57.3 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

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 foxtail 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.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012


Architecture Interior - studio

Dress - accessory - hat

Dress - ceremonial - formal dress

Ethnic - African-American

Figure female - full length

Object - art object - sculpture

Object - flower

photography - photoprint



gelatin silver