The album in the Art Institute’s collection was assembled by Steichen in 1919 from prints he kept following his military discharge. Many such pictures entered public and private collections and in some cases were assembled into albums that chronicled aerial photography during the war. Steichen’s pride in his work for the AEF is made clear in this unique compilation, which he personally captioned and dedicated to a member of a prominent family of art patrons.
Lillie R. Seney Robinson, to whom Steichen dedicated the album, was the daughter of George I. Seney—a prominent banker, philanthropist, and art collector based in New York. Robinson’s sister, Kate Seney Simpson, and her husband, John Woodruff Simpson, were likewise prominent art patrons and major supporters of the artist Auguste Rodin, with whom Steichen had a close friendship. Some have speculated that Steichen introduced them to Rodin, as it is known that they all visited the artist’s studio together as early as 1901, when Steichen was living in France. Kate Simpson commissioned a bust from Rodin, which today is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. The photographer corresponded with the family throughout the war and likely encountered them at Rodin’s funeral, shortly after his arrival on French shores in November 1917.
The album was on view in its entirety for the first time in the exhibition Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War I and Condé Nast Years, at the Art Institute of Chicago June 28, 2014 through September 28, 2014.
Figure 1. Cover of untitled album of World War I photographs assembled by Edward Steichen in 1919. Gift of William Kistler, 1977.678–760.
Figure 2. Inscription on the front inside cover of the album.