The Aaron Copland Collection ca. 1900-1990

About This Collection

The Copland Photographs

 Browse list of photographs

The photographic materials in the Library of Congress's Aaron Copland Collection number more than twelve thousand items spanning the years 1889 to 1985 and include both black and white and color prints, contact sheets, 35-mm negatives, color slides, and photograph albums. A substantial number of photographs were taken by Copland's lifelong friend, the professional photographer Victor Kraft. Widely known photographers whose work can be found in the collection include Carl Van Vechten, Irving Penn, Gordon Parks, and Margaret Bourke-White. The subject material comprises an inclusive chronology of Copland's life and includes Copland's family; Copland himself throughout his life; friends; acquaintances; fellow composers and other people with whom he worked; places where he studied, composed, or visited; and special events.

From this vast collection, 111 photographs have been initially selected for the online collection. The digitized images fall into five broad categories: Family ; Copland Alone; Copland's Music; Copland with Other Composers and People; and Places and Events. Photographs that cannot be dated precisely or approximately have been given the designation of "middle" or "late."


Of the seven family photographs, one is a formal sitting of Copland's paternal grandparents and three of their children, while another shows Copland's parents, Sarah and Harris Copland, in front of their department store in Brooklyn, New York, in 1922. The other five capture Copland with other family members.

Aaron Copland Alone

The twenty-four photographs of Copland alone show him both formally and informally and at a range of ages from six to his seventies. Several feature Copland at his home, Rock Hill, in Courtlandt near Peekskill, New York.


Copland's Music

Twenty-one photographs capture performances or rehearsals of thirteen musical works. The orchestral works represented are the Piano Concerto, in a photograph showing Copland at the piano and André Previn conducting; the Clarinet Concerto with Benny Goodman as the soloist and Copland conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and the Lincoln Portrait in two rehearsal photographs, one in color with Marian Anderson as the speaker and the other with Adlai Stevenson, both with Copland conducting. The two ballets represented are scenes from the premiere performance of Appalachian Spring at the Library of Congress and Billy the Kid, which was premiered by Lincoln Kirstein and the Ballet Caravan.

Three of the eight films for which Copland wrote music scores are illustrated in this online collection. Production stills represent The North Star and The Red Pony. There are also two informal photographs of the making of The Red Pony depicting Copland with the pony and the young boy and one studio-recording shot of Copland conducting the music for Something Wild that shows the star, Carroll Baker, in a television monitor.

One chamber work is represented in a rehearsal of the Nonet at the Library of Congress with Copland conducting. Two photographs depict William Warfield with Copland during rehearsals of Old American Songs. There is also a stage shot of the opera The Tender Land.


Copland with Other Composers and People

Numerous photographs capture Copland with fellow composers, including Leonard Bernstein, Carlos Chávez, Norman Dello Joio, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, Irving Fine, Arthur Berger, Douglas Moore, Benjamin Britten, Darius Milhaud, Philip Ramey, Walter Piston, Domingo Santa Cruz, Virgil Thomson, Roger Sessions, and Igor Stravinsky. He is also shown with such notable cultural figures and musicians as Artur Rubinstein, Claire Booth Luce, Clarence Adler, Nadia Boulanger, Victor Kraft, Vivian Perlis, Claire Reis, Jack Garfein, Thorton Wilder, Serge Koussevitzky, Agnes de Mille, and Oliver Smith.

Places and Events

The group of photographs entitled Places and Events shows Copland at Fontainebleau and Aldeburgh; in Paris, Germany, England, Peru, Israel, and Mexico; at Nadia Boulanger's studio with other students; at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Tanglewood; and at the University of Kansas, Brown University and Columbia University.