The Steichen Collections Luxembourg bring together heritage items connected with the long and varied career of Edward J. Steichen (1879-1973), with a particular emphasis on photography. A number of public collections provide evidence of his prolific work both as a photographer and as an exhibition curator for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York: the collections held by the Grand Duchy's National Museum of History and Art (Musée national d'histoire et d'art - MNHA), the City of Luxembourg, and the Grand Duchy's National Audiovisual Centre (Centre national de l'audiovisuel - CNA).
As a tribute to his country of origin, Steichen bequeathed a large part of his work to the Grand Duchy: the famous exhibition The Family of Man (1955) in Clervaux and the collection The Bitter Years (1962) in Dudelange illustrate his work as curator at the MoMA, while the collection held by the National Museum of History and Art (MNHA), which can be viewed free of charge in the city centre, represents a cross-section of his career as a photographer.
In Luxembourg City it is also possible to view some of Steichen's photographs in the 'Am Tunnel' gallery at the Banque et caisse d’épargne de l’État, where a permanent display area is devoted to his work.
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Edward Steichen was born in Bivange on 27 March 1879, and left his native country in 1881 when his family emigrated to the United States. Steichen began taking photographs at the age of 16, going on to become one of the most famous photographers of the twentieth century.
From 1922 to 1937, Steichen worked as head photographer at Condé Nast (which publishes Vanity Fair and Vogue), producing an impressive number of portraits of celebrities. From 1947 to 1962, he was Director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, where he curated 44 exhibitions.
In 1963, when he met Grand Duchess Charlotte at the White House during her State visit, Steichen introduced himself as e Lëtzebuerger Jong (a Luxembourgish boy).
Steichen passed away in Connecticut in 1973, shortly before his 94th birthday.
The Bitter Years - CNA
The Bitter Years is a tribute to documentary photography, bringing together more than 200 images from one of the largest collective projects in the history of photography: the documentation of rural America during the Great Depression by the Farm Security Administration.
Created in 1962 by Eward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), the collection was exhibited between 2012 and 2020 in the Waassertuerm gallery, a former water tower, which is located next to the National Audiovisual Centre in Dudelange. After its closure in December 2020, making way for new projects, it will be housed in the CNA archives, where it will be analysed and appraised with a view to its further appearance.
The Family of Man - CNA
The Family of Man is a collection of 503 photographs by 273 artists from 68 countries, compiled by Edward Steichen for the MoMA. The exhibition, first presented in 1955, is intended to serve as a manifesto for peace and the fundamental equality of mankind, through post-war humanist photography.
After a world tour of more than 150 museums, the final, complete version of the exhibition was installed permanently in Clervaux Castle in 1994. The exhibition was placed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2003.
National Museum of History and Art: Steichen - The Photographer
Steichen was known for his work as Director of the Department of Photography at the MoMA in New York, but he was also a major figure in the history of photography: his personal work marks the passage from pictorialism to 'straight photography'.
The MNHA devotes one room exclusively to Edward Steichen's photographic production, with a collection of 178 photographs representative of his career that the artist bequeathed to the Luxembourg State in 1985. The MNHA also holds and displays the collection owned by the Luxembourg City's Photographic Library, comprising 44 photographs by Steichen.
For conservation reasons, the full set of 222 photographs can be viewed in two-monthly cycles, each exhibition presenting about twenty photographs arranged by theme.
Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg
The Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg is a contemporary art prize set up in 2004 to mark the 125th anniversary of Edward Steichen's birth. It is awarded every two years, and gives a young European artist the opportunity to undertake a residency in New York.