The Psychological Portrait: Marcel Sternberger's Revelations in Photography

The definitive monograph on the pioneering photographer Marcel Sternberger, whose psychological portraits have defined the way we see the icons of recent history. Photographer Marcel Sternberger pioneered the technique of the "psychological portrait," and redefined the boundaries of portrait iconography in the twentieth century. Combining an interest in contemporary art and science with the desire to break free from the constraints of conventional portraiture, Sternberger’s pictures reveal as much about their author and their time as they do about their subjects. He photographed many of the most influential figures in art, science, and politics, ranging from Franklin Roosevelt and Albert Einstein to Frida Kahlo and George Bernard Shaw. Engaging his subjects—encouraging conversation, play, and gesture during photography—he elicited expressions of their characters that transformed his portraits into living works of art, and defined the public perception of his subjects’ personas. With an introduction describing Sternberger’s remarkable career and hundreds of unseen photographs, sketches, notes, and contact sheets, this is the first book to celebrate the work of one of the twentieth century’s most important image-makers.

About The Author

Jacob Loewentheil is a photography historian and an expert on the portraiture of Marcel Sternberger. Phillip Prodger is head of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

  • Publish Date: April 19, 2016
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Photography - Individual Photographers - Monographs
  • Publisher: Skira Rizzoli
  • Trim Size: 8-1/4 x 10-1/4
  • Pages: 210
  • US Price: $55.00
  • CDN Price: $55.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8478-4831-7


"The Psychological Portrait is a remarkable book in its revalatory power to show us a side of personalities such as Einstein, Freud, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera that are rarely seen. It also demonstrates that Sternberger was on the cutting edge of photography by using the insights of psychology to achieve his perceptive portrayals."

"Marcel Sternberger may be one of the most prolific portrait photographers that you've never heard of. . . This definitive monograph has 206 photographs, sketches, notes, and contact sheets along with a manual for portrait technique. More than just pictures, [The Psychological Portrait] also tells the fascinating story of a Jewish refugee who defined modern portrait iconography way before his time."

"During a time when portraiture was transitioning from posed formality to the spontaneity made possible by new handheld cameras, Marcel Sternberger's use of psychology to relax his subjects was revolutionary. . . Drawn from the extensive archive preserved by Sternberger's widow, Ilse, [The Psychological Portrait] details the photographer's mantra and method. . . Sternberger's discourse on the portraitist's role in capturing the true subject on film is still very relevant." 

"Marcel Sternberger's name was not a household one when he plied his trade during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s; it still isn't. But any doubts about his photographic pedigree vanish as you page through the amazing images in this collection . . . There are fascinating, fly-on-the-wall anectdotes describing shooting sessions, behind-the-scene snaps of Sternberger himself posing his subjects by hand while tilting the chin of some prince or Nobel Laurate. There are also an abundance of lighting diagrams, notes on camera angles, subject interaction and more. If you're a serious portrait shooter, a history buff or both, this book might just be your find of the year."