This Great, Large Photograph, Not Previously Known to Exist and Offered for Sale First Here, an Image From Herman Landshoff’s Famous Shoot, Captures Einstein Through the Camera of a Fellow Jew who Fled the Holocaust
The 20th century saw the advent of a particular style of iconic, large-format photography of widely admired people. We think primarily of men like Yousuf Karsh and Richard Avedon, whose portrait style captured the character of the men and women of that century. These photographs became symbolic of the person and inspired later photographers.
These photographs entered the autograph market. The subjects of the photographs, men like Winston Churchill, signed these great images and they became widely sought after. Imagine the “bulldog” portrait of war-time Churchill, which captured his tenacity and vigor during World War II.
Going back a couple decades, the exodus of men and women from Germany with the rise of the Nazis was not limited to the great scientists like Wernher von Braun. Among the exiled was the noted photographer Herman Landshoff, to whom we owe much for this flourishing style of photography.
The Photography of Herman Landshoff
Landshoff was born in Munich, Germany, in 1905. By 1930, he had begun building a career as a photojournalist, even reporting on Albert Einstein for a piece that appeared in the German periodical, Münchner Illustrierte Zeitung.
Like many talented Germans of his era, he was forced to flee his home with the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1933. Landshoff landed in Paris, where he took up fashion photography, mainly for Vogue.
He emigrated to the United States in 1941 and continued to work as a photographer, commercially and artistically, focusing on New York City architectural landmarks and portraits of artists, including his friends Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Robert Frank, Berenice Abbott, and Richard Avedon. To highlight the importance of Landshoff, Avedon once wrote of him: “I owe everything to Landshoff.”
One of Landshoff’s friends was none other than his fellow American émigré, Albert Einstein.
Albert Einstein at Home: The Princeton Photos
After their initial meeting in 1930, Einstein and Landshoff reunited in 1946 when Landshoff began work on a new project. Over the next four years, the photographer visited Einstein at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, several times. These sessions brought forth a dozen photographic portraits of the famous physicist, plus one of his home’s exterior.
Landshoff collected these oversized images into a portfolio, published in 1950 as Albert Einstein at Home, Princeton, 1946-1950, in an initial limited edition of six copies. Harry Woolf, the director of the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein was a faculty member until his death in 1955, praised the volume for the way it captured the “the magical melding of genius with humanity that was Albert Einstein.”
In the photograph pictured above, Einstein’s gaze is simple and direct. Was it one of the photographer’s favorites? Landshoff pulled a 11” x 13” black and white print and asked Einstein to sign it for his friends. Einstein obliged, offering a personalized inscription: “A. Einstein, 50, for Robert and Ann Akeret.” Robert Akeret was a well-known psychoanalyst and author.
Landshoff died in 1986. His work can be found today in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
His twelve iconic portraits of Einstein depict the great man standing in his library, writing, and staring into the distance. They aim to humanize a man who had reached godly heights for his brilliance and his immense contribution to science.
Finding these remarkable images, these generationally defining portraits, is highly desirable. This one was not known to exist, having come directly from the family of Einstein’s inscribee. This one, with exceptional provenance that connects Einstein, Landshoff, and Akeret, is unique.
Einstein Signed Letters and Documents
Einstein wrote extensively, and his autographs and letters are among the most sought after in the field. To explore our inventory, visit our Einstein page.