A Collection of Photos featuring Actress and Socialite Lillie Langtry (1853 – 1929)

Lillie Langtry (1853 – 1929), usually spelled Lily Langtry in the United States, born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton, was initially celebrated as a young woman for her beauty and charm, and later established a reputation as an actress and producer. In May 1877, Lady Sebright invited her to “an evening at home”, attended by some of the famous artists of the day. Her looks—together with her ability to enchant those in her company—attracted interest, comments, and invitations from artists and society hostesses.

By 1881, she had become an actress and starred in many plays, including She Stoops to Conquer, The Lady of Lyons, and As You Like It, eventually running her own stage production company. In later life she performed “dramatic sketches” in vaudeville. She was also known for her relationships with noblemen, including the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and Prince Louis of Battenberg. She was the subject of widespread public and media interest.

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Lillie Langtry photographed by William Downey August, 1885 via

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Lillie Langtree via

Lillie Langtry, famous English actress, 1884

 Lillie Langtry, 1884 via

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Lillie Langtry in matching turban and dress, 1882 via

 

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Lillie Langtry, 1881 via

Vintage Celebrity Portraits by Benjamin J. Falk

When photographer Napoleon Sarony died in 1896, Benjamin J. Falk ascended to the first place in the world of performing arts photography.

Born on October 14th, 1853, Benjamin J. Falk grew up in New York City. He graduated from the College of the City of New York with a B.S. in 1872, while concurrently serving as a technician under photographer George Rockwood. His first ambition was to be a graphic artist, so he attended classes at the NY Academy of Design while maintaining a studio with Jacob Schloss:

“Being naturally of an investigating turn of mind he interested himself in scientific studies. After making crayons for five years, he enlarged his studio into a photographic gallery. In 1881 he moved to Broadway, where the business grew rapidly, developing largely in the line of portraits of celebrities” (source).

He often experimented with his images, using curious juxtapositions, unusual poses, and lighting highlights to convey distinctiveness of personality. He did many portraits against blank walls or bleached out backcloths. He began the fashion for faces and figures suspended in a milky white ground that became ubiquitous shortly after 1900.

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Lillian Russell, bust portrait, facing front by Benjamin J. Falk, 1889 via

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Lillian Russell, 1861-1922, full length, standing, facing left; in elegant gown by Benjamin J. Falk, 1904 via

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Dancer and pioneer Loïe Fuller by Benjamin J. Falk, 1896 via

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Dancer and pioneer Loïe Fuller by Benjamin J. Falk, 1896 via

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British actress Lillie Langtry by Benjamin J. Falk, 1881 via

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British actress Lillie Langtry by Benjamin J. Falk, 1881 via