Saul Leiter

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Saul Leiter
Saul leiter.jpg
Saul Leiter by Pierre Belhassen
Born (1923-12-03)December 3, 1923
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died November 26, 2013(2013-11-26) (aged 89)
New York City, New York
Occupation Photographer and painter

Saul Leiter (December 3, 1923 – November 26, 2013) was an American photographer and painter whose early work in the 1940s and 1950s was an important contribution to what came to be recognized as the New York School.[1]


Saul Leiter was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father was a well known Talmud scholar and Saul studied to become a Rabbi. His mother gave him hist first camera at age 12.[2] At age 23, he left theology school and moved to New York City to become an artist. He had developed an early interest in painting and was fortunate to meet the Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart. Pousette-Dart and W. Eugene Smith encouraged Leiter to pursue photography and he was soon taking black and white pictures with a 35 mm Leica, which he acquired for a few Eugene Smith prints. In 1948, he started taking color photographs.[2] He began associating with other contemporary photographers such as Robert Frank and Diane Arbus and helped form what Jane Livingston has termed the New York School of photographers during the 1940s and 1950s. He died on the 26th of November 2013.[3]

The feature-length documentary In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life With Saul Leiter (2012), directed and produced by Tomas Leach, was released in 2012.[4]

Artistic contribution[edit]

Early Color book cover

Leiter’s earliest black and white photographs show an extraordinary affinity for the medium, and by 1948 he began to experiment in color. Edward Steichen included Leiter’s black and white photographs in the exhibition Always the Young Stranger at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953. In the late 1950s the art director Henry Wolf published Leiter’s color fashion work in Esquire and later in Harper’s Bazaar. Leiter continued to work as a fashion photographer for the next 20 years and was published in Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen, and Nova.

Leiter has made an enormous and unique contribution to photography. His abstracted forms and radically innovative compositions have a painterly quality that stands out among the work of his New York School contemporaries. Perhaps this is because Leiter has continued through the years to work as both a photographer and painter.[5] His painterly sensibility reaches fruition in his painted photographs of nudes on which he has actually applied layers of gouache and watercolor.

Martin Harrison, editor and author of Saul Leiter Early Color,[6] writes, "Leiter’s sensibility . . . placed him outside the visceral confrontations with urban anxiety associated with photographers such as Robert Frank or William Klein. Instead, for him the camera provided an alternate way of seeing, of framing events and interpreting reality. He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances."

Leiter’s work is featured prominently in Jane Livingston’s book The New York School[1] and in Martin Harrison’s Appearances: Fashion Photography since 1945. His work is in the collections of many prestigious public and private collections. In 2008, The Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris mounted Leiter’s first museum exhibition in Europe with an accompanying catalog. Leiter is represented in New York by the Howard Greenberg Gallery[7]

Leiter is the subject of a 2013 documentary 'In No Great Hurry - 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter'. Leiter is a featured subject in the documentary film 'Tracing Outlines' by 2nd State Productions. He died in New York City in 2013.[8]


"I must admit that I am not a member of the ugly school. I have a great regard for certain notions of beauty even though to some it is an old fashioned idea. Some photographers think that by taking pictures of human misery, they are addressing a serious problem. I do not think that misery is more profound than happiness."[2]

"In order to build a career and to be successful, one has to be determined. One has to be ambitious. I much prefer to drink coffee, listen to music and to paint when I feel like it."[2]


  • Early Color. Introduction by Martin Harrison.
  • Saul Leiter.
  • Early Black and White.
    • Göttingen: Steidl, 2008.
    • Göttingen: Steidl; Howard Greenberg Gallery, 2014. ISBN 978-3865214133. Two volumes, boxed edition. By Max Kozloff, edited by Howard Greenberg and Bob Shamis with the assistance of Margit Erb, with an additional essay by Jane Livingston.
  • Saul Leiter. Göttingen: Steidl, 2008. ISBN 9783865216625. Preface by Agnès Sire.
  • Photographs and Works on Paper. Antwerp: Fifty One Publication, 2011.
  • Here's more, why not?. Antwerp: Fifty One Publication, 2013.


Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

2013 Saul Leiter, Kunst Haus Wien
Saul Leiter, Black & white, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp
Saul Leiter, Here's more, why not, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp
2012 Saul Leiter, Retrospective, Deichtorhallen Hamburg
2011 Saul Leiter, Photographs and works on paper, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp
Saul Leiter: New York Reflections, Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam
2010 Saul Leiter, Mois de la Foto, Paris
2009 Saul Leiter, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp
2008 Saul Leiter, Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris
Saul Leiter, Galleria C arla Sozzani, Milan
Saul Leiter, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta
Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Saul Leiter, Faggionato Fine Arts, London
Saul Leiter, Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris
2007 Saul Leiter, Early Color, University of Maine Museum of Art, Bangor
2006 In Living Color, Photographs by Saul Leiter, Milwaukee Art Museum
Saul Leiter, Color, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp
The Fashion Photographs of Saul Leiter, Festival of Fashion Photography, Hyères, France
2005 Saul Leiter, Early Color. Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
2004 Saul Leiter, In Color. Staton Greenberg Gallery, Santa Barbara
1997 Saul Leiter, In Color. Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Saul Leiter, In Color. Martha Schneider Gallery, Chicago
1994 Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
1993 Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
1985 Gallery Lafayette, New York
1984 Gallery Lafayette, New York
1972 Midtown Y, New York
1954 Emerging Talent. Curated by Clement Greenberg. Samuel Koontz Gallery, New York
1950s Tanager Gallery, New York
1947 Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
1945 The Outlines Gallery, Pittsburgh
1944 Ten Thirty Gallery, Cleveland

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

2007 Pieces of a City. Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York
Mapping the City. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
When Color Was New, Art Institute of Chicago
2006 Color Photography, Amon Carter Museum, Texas
The Streets of New York, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
2002 New York: Capital of Photography. The Jewish Museum, New York
New York Scene: Ted Croner, Sid Grossman, Saul Leiter and Leon Levinstein. Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Visions from America: Photographs from the Whitney Museum of American Art 1940-2001
The Whitney Museum of American Art, June 27-September 22
1998 Look at Me, Fashion and Photography in Britain 1960 to the Present British Council European Touring Exhibition
1996 Delirium. Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York
1995 By Night. Cartier Foundation, Paris
1994 The New York School. Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee
1991 Appearances: Fashion Photography Since 1945. Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1980 Fashion Photographers. Hastings/Rinhart Galleries, New York
1958 Photographs from the Museum Collection. Museum of Modern Art, New York
1953 Contemporary Photography. Tokyo Museum, Tokyo
Always the Young Stranger. Museum of Modern Art, New York
1947 Abstract and Surrealist Art. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago


Leiter's work is held in the following public collections:

Further reading[edit]

  • Aletti, Vince. "Shadows and Fog," The Village Voice. February 9, 1993, p. 79.
  • Best, Isabel. "Saul Man," British Journal of Photography. August 2006, pp. 13–15.
  • Coleman, A.D. "Letter From: New York, No.41," PhotoMetro. April, 1993, p. 28.
  • Coleman, A.D. "Focusing on a Lesser-Known Cohort of Avedon and Arbus," The New York Observer. February 8, 1993.
  • Cowley, Rob. "Saul Leiter’s World," Infinity. September 1961, pp. 13–15.
  • Gottlieb, Jane. "In Living Color, The unassuming Saul Leiter finally and reluctantly, steps into the limelight," Photo District News, January 2007, pp. 37–39.
  • Harrison, Martin. Appearances: Fashion Photography Since 1945. London: Rizzoli, 1991.
  • Harrison, Martin. "Saul Leiter Rediscovered," The Correspondent Magazine. November 12, 1989, pp. 14–20.
  • Hostetler, Lisa. "In Living Color: Photographs by Saul Leiter," 2006, Milwaukee Art Museum. Exhibition Gallery Guide.
  • Koetzle, Michael. "Saul Leiter: Color has its own Qualities," Leica World. January, 2000.
  • Kozloff, Max. "Saul Leiter’s Elegance," Matador. Volume J. Spring 2007.
  • Livingston, Jane. The New York School: Photographs 1936-1963. New York: Stuart, Tabori and Chang, 1992.
  • Loke, Margarett. "Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery," Artnews. September, 1993, p. 174.
  • Maine, Stephen. "Color Pioneer," Art in America. April, 2006, pp. 78–79
  • Meyers, William. "When the World Stopped Being Black & White," The New York Sun. December 22, 2005.
  • Roberts, Pamela. "A Century of Colour Photography: From the Autochrome to the Digital Age," Andre Deutsch, London, 2007.
  • Smith, Roberta. "Saul Leiter: Early Color," The New York Times. December 30, 2005. Weekend Arts.
  • Tallmer, Jerry. "Still Time to Develop," The New York Post. January 29, 1993
  • Vercellin, Neil (18 May 2014). "In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter". ArtsEditor. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  • Woodward, Richard B. "Ten Undervalued Masters of Photography," Art&Auction. February 2006.


  1. ^ a b Livingston, Jane (1992) The New York School: Photographs, 1936-1963, Steward Tabori & Chang
  2. ^ a b c d Sire, Agnès. Saul Leiter, Steidl Publishers, Göttingen, Germany 2008.
  3. ^ "Photographer Saul Leiter has died". British Journal of Photography. 
  4. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (29 November 2013). "Saul Leiter obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2013. "What makes anyone think that I'm any good?" he asked Tomas Leach, who directed the feature-length documentary In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life With Saul Leiter (2012). 
  5. ^ Van Voorhees, Roger (November 2009). "Saul Leiter: Paintings". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  6. ^ Harrison, Martin. Saul Leiter Early Color.
  7. ^ Howard Greenberg Gallery: Representing Photography by Allen Ginsberg, Bruce Davidson, Edward Steichen, Eikoh Hosoe, Frank Gohlke, Gordon Parks, Imogen Cunningham, Kenro Izu, ...
  8. ^

External links[edit]