|A portrait of the Indian dancer Ram Gopal (1920-2003), dubbed ‘The Indian Nijinsky’. All the portraits of Ram Gopal that I have listed on this page were once a part of the dancer’s own collection. A wetstamp on the reverse of the print reads Please return / to / Ram Gopal.
Photographed by the American writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), identified by his blindstamp in the lower right-hand corner of the print.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Carl Van Vechten graduated from the University of Chicago in 1903 and moved to New York City in 1906, where he worked as a journalist. Between 1915 and 1920 he published collections of his essays on subjects such as music and literature, and between 1922 and 1930, he published seven novels, starting with Peter Whiffle; His Life and Works and ending with Parties. His controversial novel Nigger Heaven was published in 1926. Van Vechten was interested in black writers and artists, and knew and promoted many figures of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Wallace Thurman.
In the 1930’s, Van Vechten began taking portrait photographs; among the many individuals he photographed were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Marc Chagall, Horst P. Horst, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gore Vidal, Marlon Brando, Alfred Stieglitz, Truman Capote, Gertrude Stein, who appointed him her literary executor.
Although he was married twice, the first time unsuccessfully and briefly and the second time for over 50 years to the Russian actress Fania Marinoff, Carl Van Vechten was homosexual, as his private papers confirmed after his death.
The photograph is a vintage matt silver print on high quality paper. It measures 6.9” by 5” (176 mm by 125 mm) and is unmounted.
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