Portrait of Jack Clifford
Jack Clifford, born Virgil James Montani, was originally from Geneo, Italy. Clifford’s vaudeville fame came from his live performances, both as an actor and dancer. Clifford was noted for his marriage to Evelyn Nesbit in 1916, and after a fifteen year separation ended in divorce in 1933. Clifford died on November 10, 1956, at the age of 76, in New York. In this portrait Clifford is captured in a relaxed atmosphere, seated with an opened newspaper on his lap. Clifford is attired in casual clothing, a white shirt, a black ribbon bow tie, suit vest and pinstripe pants.
Portrait of Orval Hixon in Light Suit (Self-Portrait)
Orval Hixon was a Kansas City photographer whose artistic abilities out rivaled those of his contemporaries. Hixon was a master of his craft, summoning all his skill set to produce works capturing his subjects in profound poses. Hixon from an early onset pursued an interest in the arts. After learning he was color blind as a child, he followed a path into photography with his first camera purchased in 1898. In 1905 he paid a local photographer five dollars to work as an assistant for one month.
A Panoramic View of Kansas City from 9th and Main
This black and white photograph of Kansas City features several of the city's early historic buildings. Bold signs on buildings stand out amongst the structures, most notably the marking of the Westgate Hotel, the New York Life Building, and the New England Life Building in position to one another across the cityscape. The predominantly brick structures beneath the smoke stack driven haze of the skyline complete the image of an industrializing city.
Baby Portrait (i) and Cabinet Card
Like thousands of other families in the 19th century, the Hixons took advantage of photography as an affordable way to capture images of loved ones. During his own career, Hixon contributed to the development of a new, less formal type of studio portrait that emphasized individuality and personality rather than relying on standard props or formal poses. In this photograph, the wide-eyed baby is smiling and gazing in the viewer's direction. The floral backdrop provides depth to the photograph.
Baby Portrait (ii)
Like thousands of other families in the 19th century, the Hixons took advantage of photography as an affordable way to capture images of loved ones. During his own career Hixon contributed to the development of a new, less formal type of studio portrait that emphasized individuality and personality rather than relying on standard props or formal poses. In this photograph, the featured baby is smiling wide-eyed against a floral backdrop.
Churchill Statue Overlooking Big Ben
This is a photograph from behind the bronze statue of Sir Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square. From this angle the photograph creates the sense that Churchill is stepping past the viewer leading their gaze to the icon of the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. Also from this angle one gets the sense that this statue of Churchill is larger than life, perhaps even larger than Big Ben, clearly expressing its twelve foot height and the legacy that the late Prime Minister left on the UK.
Fall at Union Station
Kansas City-born author and photographer Bruce Mathews tends to write about and photograph the city in its best light. Here, the sun has just set on Union Station and the warm hues of the sky and street lights complement the Station alit in purple. Mathews has written several books about Kansas City, including the most recent "The Kansas City Spirit: Stories of Service Above Self" published in 2012 a few months before this photograph was taken.
Kansas City, Missouri Skyline
This photograph offers a view of the Kansas City, Missouri skyline at sunset. Recognizable are the Oak Tower, City Hall, and Kansas City Power and Light buildings which are integral to the famed skyline. However, some of the more modern buildings included in the contemporary skyline known today are missing, suggesting this photograph is older and was perhaps taken between the 1960s through the 1990s. The railways of the West Bottoms cross the lower portion of the photograph and overpasses follow suit above them. The city itself lies beyond and beneath a beautiful expanse of clouds.
Plaza Skyline and Main Street Bridge
Taken from the vantage point, this photograph captures the budding country club plaza district of Kansas City, Missouri. Prominent developer J.C. Nichols designed the plaza with an architectural aesthetic inspired by Seville, Spain, which he visited in the early twenties before opening the plaza in 1923. He built a half-scale replica of Seville’s Giralda tower as a cornerstone of the district, centrally located in the skyline of this photograph.
Portrait of Sessue Hayakawa Holding a Helmet
During Hollywood’s silent screen era, Japanese film actor Sessue Hayakawa rivaled Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and John Barrymore in popularity. Hayakawa was one of the highest paid Hollywood stars of his time, making over $5,000 a week in 1915, then two million a year through his own production company during the 1920s. Handsome and flamboyant, Hayakawa gave lavish Hollywood parties that would become legendary. Hayakawa was Paramount’s first choice for the role of the "The Sheik" that launched Rudolph Valentino’s career in 1918.
Portrait of a Figure Study with Grace Darling
The figure in this study is speculated to be Grace Darling. Grace Darling was a silent film actress best known for her leading role in "Beatrice Fairfax" (1916) as Beatrice herself, the editor of a love advice column. The film's significance comes with it being inspired by "Ask Beatrice Fairfax" the first newspaper advice column of its kind introduced in 1898 by Mary Miller, and as it was of the first film series consisting of 15 independent episodes that aired weekly. This shot captures Darling in the opening of stage curtains standing against a burlap-sheathed wall.
Portrait of a Man as an Artist
The identity of this man is unknown, but his persona is not. He is dressed here as the archetypal French painter in an exaggerated beret, precise mustache, painters frock, paintbrush, and wooden paint palette. Although there is no paint on his materials, one can assume that he is in the midst of working on the piece hanging on the wall behind him. He stands poised with brush to palette and head turned to the side, offering a dramatic profile of his character.
Portrait of a Noble Soul
This photograph is of an elderly man seated outside of Hixon's studio. The man is purportedly a former KC Star newspaper vendor. He appears worn with disheveled hair imprinted by a hat once worn, long wiry beard, and deeply wrinkled hands. He also appears to be resting for a moment as he has closed his eyes and propped his chin on his chest. One can presume the number of stories and knowledge he has garnished over time which may explicate his worn disposition, but one can expect none less than a wealth of wisdom to accompany it too.
Portrait of Ada Forman
In 1915 and 1916, Ada Forman danced with Florence O'Denishawn on tour and partnered with Ted Shawn in numerous works including Danse Javanese and Nature Rhythms. The duo also performed in exhibition ballroom performances such as Dance Vogue. She eventually left O'Denishawn to appear solo in vaudeville on the Keith-Albee circuit. Forman successfully performed in Broadway revues, roof garden shows, and in the Greenwich Village Follies of 1922. She also appeared often in London during the 1920s to great acclaim. In this portrait, she sits on the floor and gazes thoughtfully off to her left.
Portrait of Al Jolson in Tweed Suit
Asa Yoelson-Al Jolson was born in Lithuania. He changed his name to Al Jolson once he started to perform. Jolson was a celebrated singer and dancer on Broadway prior to gaining worldwide fame as the star of "The Jazz Singer". This 1927 film signaled the transition from silent pictures to sound. Known as "The World's Greatest Entertainer," Jolson's legacy is complicated by the modern-day controversy over his frequent use of blackface. Jolson extended his career by becoming a popular recording star and the singing host of radio shows.
Portrait of Al Jolson with a Smile
Born in Lithuania, Asa Yoelson-Al Jolson, known professionally as Al Jolson was a celebrated singer and dancer. He was a Broadway attraction prior to gaining worldwide fame as the star of "The Jazz Singer." This 1927 film signaled the transition from silent pictures to sound. Jolson was known as "The World's Greatest Entertainer;" however, his legacy is complicated by the modern-day controversy over his frequent use of blackface. Jolson extended his career by becoming a popular recording star and the host of radio shows.
Portrait of Al Jolson with Smile
Al Jolson was called the greatest entertainer of his era. He was born in Imperial Russia and traveled to America with his family. He and his brother learned ragtime songs and performed in the streets. They were determined to break into show business. Assuming a common trend of the time, Jolson started performing in blackface in 1904. His performances grew more expressive: he danced, stamped, cried real tears, improvised risqué jokes, and outrageous physical gags—even sashayed about with wildly effeminate gestures.
Portrait of an Unknown Actress
This photograph features a woman in an elegant gown and an ornate headpiece. Her necklaces drape over her chest in a way that mirrors the parabolic shape of her headpiece, emphasizing her face against the dark background. Hixon often manipulated his photographs as they were developing, which he appears to have done to the drapery in the background. Scratch marks in the drapery reveal the whiteness of the photographic paper that echoes the highlights in the actress's embellishments.
Portrait of an Unknown Vaudevillian Actress
This photograph captures a frontal view of an unknown actress. She is reminiscent of famed actress Bessie Love with her wide-eyes and her pursed lips. The woman is draped in a bright cloth, her left hand clasps the material at the center.
Portrait of an Unknown Vaudevillian Actress as Joan of Arc
This portrait features an unknown vaudevillian actress dressed as Joan of Arc. She is shrowd in a linen garmet and head wrap that leave only her hands and face exposed. She turns away from the camera, offering a profile that is distinct against the black background. She holds a few long-stalked lilies to her torso with the flowers themselves positioned around her head. The two lilies, one out of focus behind her head and the other in focus hugging the curve of her chin, work to frame her face while also appearing as extensions of her head wrapping that creates a peculiar overall look.