spacer Lena Horne Lena Horne (born 1917)
Singer, actress

Singer and actress Lena Horne began her stage career as a chorus girl in Harlem's Cotton Club, but soon moved on to appearances on Broadway and featured roles in nightclubs. In 1942 she became the first black woman in almost thirty years to sign a term contract with a major Hollywood film studio. Horne's beauty, natural grace, and apparently limitless talents opened doors that were otherwise closed to many gifted African American performers. Among her awards and honors are two Grammy Awards, a Tony Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors Award for lifetime contribution to the arts.

Her advantageous position in the entertainment world also made her a symbol for the aspirations of the African American community, and her encounters with racism first as the only black member of Charlie Barnett's band and then in Hollywood led her to become a vocal spokesperson for the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Edward Biberman studied art in Paris and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts after receiving a degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He moved permanently to Los Angeles in 1936, where he met Horne in 1947. Biberman's image of Horne celebrates the beauty and sophistication for which she was known.

Edward Biberman (1904-1986)
Oil on canvas, 1947
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Enlarged image

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