James Van Der Zee - Documenting the Harlem Renaissance

US: 1920s–early 1930s Literary, visual, and performing arts flourish in Harlem, the African-American enclave of New York City, spurred by the mass migration of blacks from rural areas to northern cities. Poets, novelists, painters, and musicians of the "New Negro Movement"—later called the Harlem Renaissance—search for new forms of expression to convey their racial experiences and celebrate African-American cultural identity. Major figures of the Harlem Renaissance include poets Langston Hughes (1902–1967) and Countee Cullen (1903–1946), novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960), jazz composer Duke Ellington (1899–1974), political activists W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) and Marcus Garvey (1887–1940), photographer James Van Der Zee (1886–1983), and artists Aaron Douglas (1899–1979) and Archibald Motley (1891–1981). MMA's Timeline of Art History

African-American Registry
The Harlem Renaissance
PBS: Harlem Renaissance
Library of Congress Webguide to The Harlem Renaissance
Salute to James Van Der Zee
Madame CJ Walker
More Van Der Zee
Jacob Lawrence Exhibition

James Van der Zee, June 29, 1886 - May 15, 1983

Best known for his portraits of African-American New Yorkers. He was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Aside from the artistic merits of his work, Van Der Zee captured the most comprehensive documentation of the period.

Whittier Prep Class, 1908

Outside the Guarantee Photo Studio, c. 1920

GGG Photo Studio, 1931

(Studio Portrait), 1929

Identical Twins, 1924

Reception in the Office of the CJ Walker Company, 1929

"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations....I have built my own factory on my own ground." -- Madam Walker, National Negro Business League Convention, July 1912

Barefoot Prophet, 1929

Band Leader, 1931

Bridesmaids in Harlem, 192?

Cornerstone Laying, 1924

Untitled (Boy in Coffin), 1938

At Home (Josephine Becton), 1934

Girl with a Fancy Dress, 1938

Portrait of a Lady, 1930


Untitled, 1932

125th Street Looking East, 1945

Eternal Care, 1953

Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1982