Ruzzie Green

(1892 - 1956) American


Born in New York, Kneeland L'Amoureux Green adopted his nickname while attending the Art Students League. Upon his graduation in 1917, he worked as a freelance illustrator and layout specialist for commercial clients until he was employed as chief illustrator, and later art director, for the Stehli Silk corporation, a leading textile design firm of the 1920s. While traveling to Europe in 1926, Green met Edward Steichen, with whom he soon collaborated on a series of photographs for Stehli Silk. Green was art director for this project, while Steichen photographed arrangements of common items--matches, carpet tacks, thread, buttons, rice, coffee--that were then reproduced as textile designs. Steichen later credited Green as the catalyst for this series, which Steichen considered important in his artistic development away from Pictorialism to the new modernist aesthetic of the 1920s and 1930s. Because of the Depression, Green had to leave Stehli Silk; he was hired as art director for Harper's Bazaar, where he remained until he turned to commercial photography in 1932. By the next year he had become a specialist in the carbro color printing process, an expensive and complicated technique that was highly prized among commercial media throughout the 1930s. Green's commercial work appeared in such magazines as Harper's Bazaar, Ladies' Home Journal, and McCall's from the 1930s through the 1950s, and he produced photographs for some of the most famous advertising campaigns by Camel, Modess, and other clients.
Despite his relative obscurity today, Ruzzie Green was one of the best-known commercial photographers of his era. Noted for striking color images epitomizing modern glamour and elegance, his work blurred the boundary between editorial fashion photography and commercial illustration, as did that of Nickolas Muray and Ruth Bernhard. Although much research remains to be done on his life and career, it is clear that Green was one of the most accomplished photographers of his generation.
Lisa Hostetler
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 217.
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