Black and White Portraits from the Harlem Renaissance
Van Vechten took to Zora Neale Hurston and especially to Langston Hughes. Biographies tell us that Hughes didn’t doubt Van Vechten’s sincerity, but he worried nevertheless how their connection would look in Harlem. Countee Cullen would eventually sit for Van Vechten, but in the 1920s, as a young black poet who believed he could write a lyric poetry that was color-blind, an escape from race, he kept his distance from the man who was already controversial as a white patron of black artists.
The New York Review of Books shares the story of Carl Van Vechten, a somewhat naive failed fiction writer who would go on to befriend and photograph some of the most important figures of the Harlem Renaissance.