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Josephine Baker in tuxedo and top hat
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 17.5 cm
Bassenge Photography Auctions
Courtesy of Bassenge, Berlin (Photography, Dec 2, 2009, Sale: 94, Lot: 4114)
Photographer's stamp, layout marks and annotated in pencil on the verso.
Born in America of a Jewish father and black mother, Josephine Baker became the 20th century's first black superstar and influenced Europe's perception of black performers. She was a megastar, French Resistance fighter, civil rights activist and mother to her adopted multi-racial family of twelve children. Baker was much more than just a dancer with a risqué reputation, as she actively combated prejudice, racism and intolerance. In 1937, she became a French citizen and after the outbreak of World War II, she was recruited as a spy for the French Resistance and was eventually awarded the Legion of Honor, the Rosette of the Resistance, and the Croix de Guerre by the French government. She was also a vocal critic of racism, and her denunciations of segregation in the United States led her to be celebrated by some and attacked by others. When she died in 1975, one obituary said 'She was a great citizen of the world as well as a great artist'. The photograph offered here captures her extraordinary style and poise and an image from this sitting is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.