BARBARA STANWYCK (1928) Early theatrical portrait by Ben Strauss


[Cleveland, OH / New York City, NY: Ben Strauss, 1928]. Vintage original 8 x 10″ (20 x 25 cm.) black-and-white glossy silver gelatin print photo. Chip at top and bottom right corner. Spotting mostly evident in the hair. Very good.

In the 1910s, Benjamin Strauss specialized in formal portraits of Kansas City notables. After he added Homer Peyton as partner, the business expanded to theatrical photography. Peyton was the graphic artist, performing pictorial manipulations of the negative to form aesthetic backgrounds, sculpt shadows and supply tonal drama. Strauss-Peyton’s large format prints are particularly noteworthy for their richness of texture.

Because of Kansas City’s importance as a transportation hub, it was also the juncture of three different theatrical circuits. Strauss-Peyton and other photographers based there secured a national reputation as celebrity portraitists. Images regularly appeared in 1920s movie and theater magazines.

Before coming to Hollywood in 1928, Barbara Stanwyck (starting life as Ruby Stevens) worked with Texas Guinan’s troupe and graduated to Broadway in the plays The Noose (during which she changed her name) and Burlesque. Strauss maintained a photography office in New York City between 1926 and 1929, and it is likely this photo was done at that time.

Coded “Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Strauss, Cleveland” on bottom right edge of image (partially cutoff and obscured by blank white margin).

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