Benjamin Falk (1853 - 1925)
Benjamin Falk, a lifelong New Yorker, was one of the preeminent photographers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Falk was both a relentless innovator and an early pioneer of electric lighting, as well as a champion of copyright protection for photographic works. He operated his studio at several locations in Manhattan during his long career. Falk can rightly be considered the technical and spiritual predecessor to great studio photographers such as Edward Steichen, George Hurrell, Clarence Sinclair Bull, and Ernst Bachrach.
Lillian Russell, 1904
Silver gelatin print, 1904; edition not stated. Image size 9-5/8" x 13". Framed size overall 16-1/8" x 22¼". Fine overall condition, with small image flaws uncorrected at time of original printing. The photograph was made at Falk's studio then located at 14 & 16 West 33rd Street in Manhattan.
Helen Louise Leonard (1861-1922) was born in Clinton, Iowa, the fifth daughter of a newspaper publisher. She grew up in Chicago, studied voice, violin, and opera in New York, and made her first stage appearance in Brooklyn in 1879, in a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore. In 1880, she made her Manhattan debut at Tony Pastor’s Variety Theater on 14th Street under the stage name Lillian Russell. She subsequently starred in light operas and operettas in New York and London. She was held to be the ideal of feminine beauty in her day and age, a splendidly well-upholstered and dazzlingly bejeweled exemplar of her sex. She was married four times, and for four decades was the frequent companion of James Buchanan “Diamond Jim” Brady.
The print was cleaned and carefully removed from its brittle and acidic cardboard mount, dried, mounted, matted, and framed using archival quality materials. A beautiful Belle Epoque portrait of this illustrious singer and actress.