first edition Photograph
1947 · Princeton NJ
by EINSTEIN, ALBERT; HALSMAN, PHILIPPE
Princeton NJ: Halsman, 1947. Photograph. Fine. ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS IMAGES OF EINSTEIN. Philippe Halsman's now iconic 1947 photograph of Einstein has become, not only one of the most celebrated images of Einstein, but one of the most recognizable images of the twentieth century. It was used to a 1966 US postage stamp of Einstein and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine honoring Einstein as the "Person of the Century".
The photographer Halsman, in his book Philippe Halsman: A Retrospective explained the circumstances of the photo: I admired Albert Einstein more than anyone I ever photographed, not only as the genius who single-handedly had changed the foundation of modern physics but even more as a rare and idealistic human being.
Personally, I owed him an immense debt of gratitude. After the fall of France, it was through his personal intervention that my name was added to the list of artists and scientists who, in danger of being captured by the Nazis, were given emergency visas to the United States.
After my miraculous rescue I went to Princeton to thank Einstein, and I remember vividly my first impression. Instead of a frail scientist I saw a deep-chested man with a resonant voice and a hearty laugh...
The question of how to capture the essence of such a man in a portrait filled me with apprehension. Finally, in 1947, I had the courage to bring on one of my visits my Halsman camera and a few floodlights. After tea, I asked for permission to set up my lights in Einstein's study. The professor sat down and started peacefully working on his mathematical calculations. I took a few pictures. Ordinarily, Einstein did not like photographers, whom he called Lichtaffen (light monkeys). But he cooperated because I was his guest and, after all, he had helped save me.
Suddenly looking into my camera, he started talking. He spoke about his despair that his formula E=mc2 and his letter to President Roosevelt had made the atomic bomb possible, that his scientific search had resulted in the death of so many human beings. "Have you read," he asked, "that powerful voices in the United States are demanding that the bomb be dropped on Russia now, before the Russians have time to perfect their own?" With my entire being I felt how much this infinitely good and compassionate man was suffering from the knowledge that he had helped to put in the hands of politicians a monstrous weapon of devastation and death.
He grew silent. His eyes had a look of immense sadness. There was a question and a reproach in them.
The spell of this moment almost paralyzed me. Then, with an effort, I released the shutter of my camera. Einstein looked up, and I asked him, "So you don't believe that there will ever be peace?"
"No," he answered. "As long as there will be man there will be wars." Silver prints of this photograph have been printed in different sizes over the years. This photograph is an official Halsman silver print, with his copyright hand-stamp on the verso, measuring approximately 10x13 inches. Princeton, NJ. Silver print. Taken 1947; printed 1970s. Image: 13x10 inches (33x25.4 cm.). Archivally matted and framed under UV-protecting museum glass to an overall size of 18.5x22 inches. A stunning piece in fine condition.
(Inventory #: 2187)