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Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire
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Edward Jean Steichen, 27 Mar 1879 - 25 Mar 1973
Fred Astaire, 10 May 1899 - 22 Jun 1987
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.2 x 19.3cm (9 1/2 x 7 5/8")
Sheet: 25.2 x 20.2cm (9 15/16 x 7 15/16")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
Frame: 56.5 x 41.3 x 3.2cm (22 1/4 x 16 1/4 x 1 1/4")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired in memory of Agnes and Eugene Meyer through the generosity of Katharine Graham and the New York Community Trust, The Island Fund
Restrictions & Rights
© The Estate of Edward Steichen / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Object number
Exhibition Label
Already well established as musical theater's "fleetest of jazz steppers," Fred Astaire was starring on Broadway in Funny Face when he posed for this image. The dancer-actor would achieve his greatest fame in the 1930s, when he went to Hollywood to make movie musicals and teamed up with Ginger Rogers. Starring together in such confections as The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, and Shall We Dance, Astaire and Rogers brought a romantic glamour to their films that was uniquely their own, and their silver-screen elegance provided moviegoers with a much-welcomed escape from the gray realities of the Depression. Astaire had a genius for making his dancing seem effortless, but behind the finished performance, he said, were long days of experimenting that often produced "nothing but exhaustion."
By transforming Astaire's signature top hat into a recurring motif, Steichen offers a clever visual reference to his subject's style and sophistication.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection
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