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[ Children of high class, Chinatown, San Francisco]

Arnold Genthe Collection

Photographs by Arnold Genthe

Prints and Photographs Division

Collection digitized? Genthe's negatives, transparencies and autochromes have been digitized and are available in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (when searching from outside the Library of Congress, only thumbnail images display). Selected images are included here to give a sample of the collection.

In 1943 the Library of Congress purchased the photographic materials remaining in the studio of Arnold Genthe (1869-1942) at the time of his death. Originally trained as a classical scholar, Genthe taught himself photography soon after emigrating from Germany in 1895. The success of his photographs of San Francisco's Chinatown led him to establish a local portrait studio. He became famous for his impressionistic portrayals of society women, artists, dancers, and theater personalities. Moving to New York in 1911, Genthe experimented with the new Autochrome color process and executed one of the first documentary commissions in color. The Library's collection of approximately ten thousand negatives and eighty-seven hundred contact and enlargement prints is the largest single collection of Genthe's work and contains images from all periods of his career: the famed photographs of Chinatown, which are probably the only negatives from his early years to escape the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire; views taken during his travels in Europe and Asia; photographs of Yosemite and New Orleans; studies of dancers; and reproductions of painting and sculpture. The greater part of the collection relates to portrait commissions. Many sitters are listed in the division biographical card index and keyed to the original negatives through Genthe's logbooks. The original Genthe photoprints are kept with the master photographs and grouped by subject. Also in the collection are 375 original color transparencies, some of which were the gift of the Museum of Modern Art in 1947.

Catalog records for negatives, transparencies, and autochromes in the collection can be searched in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog). The records are accompanied by digital images (when searching from outside the Library of Congress, only thumbnail images display).

Note: Information for this entry was compiled in the late 1970's for inclusion in: Special Collections in the Library of Congress: A Selective Guide. Compiled by Annette Melville. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1980. The information has not been revised, except to include data about digitized images and online catalog records.


U.S. Library of Congress. Reference Department. Guide to the Special Collections of Prints & Photographs in the Library of Congress (Washington: 1955. NE53.W3A52), compiled by Paul Vanderbilt, no. 260-261.

Vanderbilt, Paul, "The Arnold Genthe Collection." Library of Congress Quarterly Journal (Z881.U49A3). v. 8, May 1951: 13-18; reprinted in A Century of Photographs: 1846-1946, Selected from the Collections of the Library of Congress (Washington: 1980 TR6.U62.D572), compiled by Renata V. Shaw.

U.S. Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division. Viewpoints, a Selection from the Pictorial Collections of the Library of Congress; a Picture Book by Alan Fern, Milton Kaplan, and the staff of the Prints and Photographs Division, (Washington: 1975. 223 p. illus. E178.5.U54 1974; reprint. New York, Arno Press: 1976. E178.5.U54 1976), no. 128-129, 181.


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  October 22, 2010
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