As a co-founder, with Alfred Stieglitz, of the Photo-Secession in 1902, Steichen adopted the Pictorialist style in his early photographs and was also influenced by the romantic themes of the Symbolists. A painter as well as a photographer, Steichen lived in Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century, where he briefly studied at the Academie Julian and was also well acquainted with avant-garde artists such as Cezanne, Picasso, and Matisse. During World War I, from 1917 to 1918, Steichen served with the U.S. Army in France as an aerial reconnaissance photographer. Rejecting Pictorialism after the war, Steichen showed a new appreciation for the straightforward photograph with its distinctive clarity.
In 1923 Steichen was appointed chief photographer for Conde Nast publications, including Vogue and Vanity Fair, and became known for his portraits of fashionable Americans. He met Jean Walker Simpson at Auguste Rodin's studio in Paris, and the two became close friends. She was the daughter of John Walker Simpson, a prominent New York lawyer and art collector who owned at least two paintings by Steichen.
Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)