Somehow the legacy of this photographer is only now on its way to gaining the true recognition it deserves. We need not look at many works to realize their quality, their belonging to the time and place of the artist and his contemporaries. Perhaps it was the era and Stein's need to keep on the move, to reinvent and rebuild himself that worked against his earlier establishment. Born in Dresden, Stein studied law but the Nazi Government denied him admission to the bar. Stein and his wife left Germany in 1933 claiming to be on honeymoon. They traveled to Paris where Stein began taking photographs with the Leica they bought as a joint wedding present.
In Paris Stein allied himself with a circle of artists and intellectuals. He was among the first to adopt the agile hand-held camera and used it to work with spontaneity to capture the drama, the elegance, the grit of the every day. The rhythm in his work is dynamic almost architectural, the framing structured but spontaneous. Stein seemed to have worked with an easy airiness and his sense of "the moment" too is well but gracefully thought. Life was again interrupted in 1939 when Germany declared war on France. Stein was put in an internment camp, but managed to escape and reunite with his wife and infant daughter in the south and obtain assistance from the International Rescue Committee. The family left France for New York in 1941.
Finding himself in a new, vibrant cultural hub Stein again set root and formed relationships with cultural, scientific, and political leaders. Stein continued to work to capture the city life, and also opened a studio business. The portrait enhanced his knowledge of light and tone that enhanced the quality of his more spontaneous personal work. Many personalities of his time were subjects of his portraits, including Albert Einstein, Georgia O'Keefe, and Marc Chagal (all on view). The anonymous are seen with equal honor and dignity, even in heavier themed frames of folks down on their luck or hungry-looking children. Stein's work was published in a slew of magazines, newspapers, and texts of his time; his relevance slow in coming to all circles, will certainly be remembered by all who see his work.
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210 Eleventh Ave., at 24th St., New York, N.Y.