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Alexander, John White (07 October 1856–31 May 1915), artist, was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, the son of John Alexander and Fanny Smith. Alexander’s father died soon after his birth, and his mother died when he was five years old. Sent to live with his maternal grandparents, Alexander left school at the age of twelve to work as a messenger for the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh. Colonel Edward Jay Allen, an official of the firm, was impressed by a sketch done by Alexander. Allen eventually adopted Alexander....

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Aronson, Boris ( October 1900–16 November 1980), scene and costume designer, was born in Kiev, Russia, the son of Solomon Aronson, the chief rabbi of Kiev, and Deborah Turfsky. By the age of eight he was exhibiting astonishing artistic talent and went on to study art in Kiev, Moscow, and Paris....

Article

Bernstein, Aline Frankau (22 December 1880–07 September 1955), set and costume designer and author, was born in New York City, the daughter of Joseph Frankau, an actor, and Rebecca Goldsmith. Joseph Frankau, who was of German-Jewish ancestry, first named his daughter Hazel, but her mother changed it to Aline. Educated in the New York public schools and raised in the theater, as a child Aline wanted to be an actress, but her father encouraged her talent for drawing instead. After the early deaths of her parents (both had died by 1897), Aline became the ward of her aunt, Rachel, a drug addict. She attended Hunter College as a student of fine art. Tom Watson, a family friend and a member of the board of directors of the New York School of Applied Design, arranged for her to study drawing on scholarship at the school. She later studied portrait painting with ...

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Norman Bel Geddes Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G401-T-4759-003).

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Geddes, Norman Bel (21 April 1893–08 May 1958), scene and lighting designer, industrial designer, and producer, was born Norman Melancton Geddes in Adrian, Michigan, the son of Clifton Terry Geddes and Gloria Lulu Yingling. He was educated in public schools in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois before attending the Cleveland School of Art and the prestigious Chicago Art Institute by the time he was sixteen years old. When he was in his early twenties, Geddes had his earliest successes as a magazine and poster artist in Detroit, Michigan. He designed his first theatrical production, ...

Article

Jonson, Raymond (18 July 1891–10 May 1982), painter and theater graphic designer, was born Carl Raymond Johnson near Chariton, Iowa, the son of the Reverend Gustav Johnson and Josephine Abrahamson. Jonson was home-schooled until 1899, when he attended his first school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the family lived for a brief period. In 1902 the family settled in Portland, Oregon. Jonson studied at the Portland Art Museum in 1909 with an instructor who had been a student of Arthur Wesley Dow. Jonson moved to Chicago in 1910 to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts. He later enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago....

Article

Nikolais, Alwin (25 November 1910–08 May 1993), choreographer, designer, and composer, was born in Southington, Connecticut, the son of John Nikolais and Martha Heinrich. From an early age he studied music. During his high school years he was an organ accompanist for silent films at the Westport Movie House. In 1929 he graduated from Lewis High School in Southington....

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Pavel Tchelitchew Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103672).

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Tchelitchew, Pavel (21 September 1898–31 July 1957), painter and stage designer, was born in Kaluga, Russia, near Moscow, the son of Fedor Chelishchev and Nadezhda Permyakov, progressive aristocrats who implemented Tolstoian ideals in caring for the peasants on their vast estates. He received private tutoring and began drawing at an early age, inspired by the illustrations of Gustave Doré. He attended Moscow University from 1916 until 1918 and studied art at Moscow’s Academy. The family fled to Kiev following the Russian Revolution of 1918. Tchelitchew studied at the Kiev Academy under Alexandra Exter, who applied the principles of Russian constructivism to theatrical design. He designed posters and collaborated on a series of music hall productions with Isaac Rabinovitch, an important Soviet stage designer. Around 1919 Tchelitchew’s style began to evolve away from cubist abstraction, employing curving lines and some representational elements....

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Joseph Urban Photograph by Arnold Genthe, c. 1916. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-1732).

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Urban, Joseph (26 May 1872–10 July 1933), architect, scenic designer, and illustrator, was born Josef Karl Maria Georg Urban in Vienna, Austria, the son of Josef Urban, an official in the Viennese school system, and Helen Weber. Although his family hoped he would become a lawyer, in 1890 Urban enrolled at the Polytechnicum in Vienna for courses in architectural engineering and at the Imperial and Royal Academy, where he studied architectural design and aesthetics under the architect Karl von Hasenauer....