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James Van der Zee 
Evening Attire 
Gelatin silver print 
American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution 
Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1994.57.3 
Exhibition label (Accessed: 29 June 2019)
VanDerZee is best known for the studio portraits he made in Harlem after World War I. His sensitivity and the pride he felt from living and working within the community are clear in elegant and graceful images that challenged prevailing stereotypes. The sitter in Evening Attire is dressed in a beaded evening gown, an elegant, full hat, and a foxtail wrap; she holds a spray of flowers. Her stance, coupled with the backdrop, the brocade table cover, and a decorative figurine, evokes formal Victorian home interiors seen in Edwardian portraiture and nineteenth century cartes de visite, the small photographs people used as calling cards in the late nineteenth century. 

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