Carl Van Vechten

Author: Carl Van Vechten

Profile: Carl Van Vechten was an American writer and artistic photographer. He was Gertrude Stein’s literary executor and an underwriter of the Harlem Renaissance. He completed his education at Washington High School and University of Chicago.

He took up photography later in life and took portraits of a number of famous personalities. Even if for most of his adult life, he was married to women, he did indulge in many homosexual affairs during his lifetime. He had well educated parents with his mother having great musical talent and establishing the Cedar Rapids public library while his father was a well known wealthy banker. At a very young age Van developed liking for theatre and music.

He could not easily take up the next steps in life in is unloved town so decided to study at the University of Chicago in 1899 where he learnt opera, art and music. His interest in writing developed in college her he wrote for the University of Chicago weekly, the college newspaper.

After graduating in 1903 from college he took up a job for the Chicago American as columnist and at the same time experimented with photography. He became famous as a notoriety and writer for Nigger Heaven his 1926 novel. He was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States and died in New York, New York, United States. Fania Marinoff and Anna Elizabeth Synder were his two spouses.

Writing style: Carl Van Vechten covered a range of topics through a semi-autobiographical criticism and gossip. He was asked to include photographs with his column while working with the Chicago American.

Published Texts:

1915 – Music After the Great War

1916 – Music and Bad Manners

1917 – Interpreters and Interpretations

1918 – The Merry-Go-Round

1918 – The Music of Spain

1919 – In the Garret

1920 – The Tiger in the House

1921 – Lords of the Housetops

1922 – Peter Whiffle

1923 – The Blind Bow-Boy

1924 – The Tattooed Countess

1925 – Red

1925 – Firecrackers. A Realistic Novel

1926 – Excavations

1926 – Nigger Heaven

1928 – Spider Boy

1930 – Parties

1930 – Feathers

1932 – Sacred and Profane Memories


1974 – The Dance Writings of Carl Van Vechten


Woman of the World


Awards and Acknowledgements:

Van Vechten played an important role in the Harlem Renaissance and helped in bringing greater clarity to the African-American movement.

He assisted respected writers in identifying publishers for their early works.

Remember Me to Harlem was published by Emily Bernard in 2001 as part of documentation of the long friendship between Langston Hughes and Van Vechten.

He was subject of a biography by Bruce Kellner in 1968 ‘Carl Van Vechten and the Irreverent Decades’ as well as Edward White’s biography in 2014 ‘The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America’.

Most of Van Vechten’s personal papers and portraits are held in the Universities like Yale University and Museums like Philadelphia Museum of Art.