Herman Landshoff Portfolio
The hundredth anniversary of Albert Einstein's birth in 1979 prompted much celebration of and reflection on Einstein's scientific and cultural legacy, including the Einstein Centennial Symposium held at the Institute in March of that year. Shortly afterward, photographer Herman Landshoff created a limited edition portfolio of photographs he had taken of Einstein in the 1940s and 1950s. The Institute's Libraries and Archives hold two versions of this portfolio, one as it was originally presented by the photographer and one that is essentially the raw source material. The latter version of the images is on display now in the Dining Hall in the corridor leading to the Dilworth Room. This version of the images is displayed in the order selected by Landshoff for the portfolio, from 1 to 13. The photograph featured at the beginning of the display that bears Landshoff’s signature was not included in the original portfolio, though it was part of the unassembled set.
The Institute and Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein is considered one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known. Already widely celebrated for his theory of relativity, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1921 for his work on the photoelectric effect. Forced to leave Germany in the years preceding World War II, Einstein was highly sought after by universities in Europe and the United States. Abraham Flexner, the Institute for Advanced Study’s Founding Director, met with Einstein several times in 1932 to convince him to join the Institute’s fledging School of Mathematics. When his appointment as one of the Institute's first two Faculty members was announced in October 1932, it was a media sensation and launched the Institute into the public consciousness.
Einstein served on the Faculty until 1946, continuing as a Professor Emeritus until his death in 1955. His presence at the Institute brought many distinguished visitors to Princeton, and his home was often graced by figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment, journalism, art, and science. In addition to being the town’s most well-known intellectual, Einstein was one of Princeton’s most beloved inhabitants. Local residents had many cherished encounters with Einstein as he walked through town.
The year 1979 was the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s birth, a milestone that was marked by celebrations around the world. The Institute was involved in the planning of several of these events, including its own symposium, which featured talks by leading physicists from around the world, including both those who had worked with Einstein and those who had been inspired by his ideas. The proceedings of the Institute’s symposium were published by Addison-Wesley in 1980 as Some Strangeness in the Proportion: A Centennial Symposium to Celebrate the Achievements of Albert Einstein.
Herman Landshoff (1905–1986)
Born in Germany, Herman Landshoff became interested in photography from an early age. He had an artistic family – his father, Ludwig Landshoff, was a composer and conductor. His sister, Ruth Vollmer, was a sculptor. Landshoff was primarily a fashion photographer. Prior to emigrating from Europe, he worked for Paris Vogue and Femina. After arriving in the United States in 1941, he continued his career by taking photographs for magazines such as Harpers, Junior Bazaar, and Mademoiselle. He was known for his use of motion and movement and his affinity for black and white photography.
Although fashion photography was his trade, Landshoff shot many other types of photographs as well and often set himself new and different challenges when seeking out projects. Landshoff took a number of photographs of Albert Einstein in the 1940s and 1950s. The photographs were taken at Einstein’s home at 112 Mercer Street and showed the great mind in repose. One of the photographs of Einstein was chosen to be the basis for a commemorative stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 1979 in conjunction with the Einstein Centennial. The ceremony was part of the Institute’s celebrations and brought Landshoff in contact with the Institute's administration for the first time, which proved to be fortuitous.
Albert Einstein at Home, Princeton, 1946–1950
Inspired by the events of the Einstein Centennial, Herman Landshoff decided to create a limited edition portfolio of his Einstein photographs. The first run of the portfolio was to be six copies, with up to another forty-four copies printed if demand warranted it. Landshoff asked Harry Woolf, the Institute’s Director, who had been so involved in the Einstein Centennial celebrations, to write the preface to the portfolio, and enlisted his help in registering the copyright with the Library of Congress.
By Landshoff’s own account, he was not much of a salesman and failed to sell out the initial run, obviating the need to create any additional copies. He gave the Institute one of the unsold portfolios to thank Woolf for his assistance. Though he did not realize the money he had hoped from selling the portfolios, the venture did prove profitable for Landshoff in another sense, however. Woolf’s high regard for Landshoff led to him being hired to take portraits of all of the Institute’s Faculty in conjunction with the Institute’s 50th Anniversary in 1980.
The Institute holds two sets of the Albert Einstein at Home photographs – the portfolio given to Harry Woolf, which is part of the Institute’s rare book collection, located in the Rosenwald Room of the Historical Studies-Social Science Library, and an unassembled, matted set, which was recently rediscovered and transferred to the Institute’s Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center.