Lisette Model biography


Elise Amélie Félicie (Lisette) Stern was born on 10 November in Vienna, as the second child of three. Her father, Victor Hypolite Josef Calas Stern, came from a Jewish family and was a doctor. Her mother, Françoise Antoinette Félicité (Félicie) Picus, was a French Catholic. Her brother, Salvatór Stern, was a year older.


Her father changed the family name from Stern to Seybert.


Olga Seybert, the sister, was born.


Studied piano for the composer Edward Steuermann. He introduced her to a circle of avant-garde artists in Vienna.


Embarked on two years of music studies under the composer Arnold Schönberg, at the Schwarzwald School in Vienna.


Studied singing for two years under Marie Gutheil-Schoder. Her father died aged 58.


Moved from Vienna together with her mother and her sister Olga. Lisette Seybert settled in Paris, and the others lived in Nice. She continued to study music in Paris, and took singing lessons for Marya Freund.


Became interested in art and studied painting for a short period with the artist André Lhote. She discovered photography through her sister Olga, who later became a photographer in the field of science, and through her friend, Rogi André, a photographer who was the first wife of André Kertész.


On a visit to her mother in Nice she started photographing the series with people along the Promenade des Anglais. While there she met her future husband, the Russian artist Evsa Model (b. 1899).


Photos from the Promenade des Anglais series were published in the February issue of the French magazine Regards.


Married Evsa Model in Paris.


The Models emigrated to the USA and settled in New York.


Started producing her Reflections and Running Legs series. Also portrayed Delancey Street, Battery Park and Wall Street.


Lisette Model met Alexey Brodovitch, art director of Harper’s Bazaar. Brodovitch introduced her to Beaumont Newhall, curator of the newly-inaugurated department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Newhall bought two of Model’s photographs for the museum collection and included them in the exhibition Sixty Photographs: A Survey of Camera Aesthetics later the same year. Several photographs from the Reflections series were published in the December issue of the magazine Cue. This was the first time a magazine printed her American work.


Ralph Steiner, art editor at PM’s Weekly, discovered her work. Several photographs by Lisette Model were published under the title “One Photographer’s Explanation of Why France Fell”. The Photo League in New York organised her first solo exhibition. Some 40 photographs were shown, including works from Promenade des Anglais, Running Legs and Reflections. Embarked on a collaboration with Alexey Brodovitch and Harper’s Bazaar which continued until 1955. One of her most famous photographs, Coney Island Bather, was used to illustrate an article, and this was her first assignment for the magazine.


Went to Chicago, where she had a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago: Photographs by Lisette Model. Later that year, she visited Washington and met Edward Steichen for the first time. Eight of her photographs were shown at the inaugural exhibition at the photographic department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Photographed blind people at the Lighthouse, a workshop for the blind. Harper’s Bazaar published the photo essay Sammy’s from a bar in Bowery, New York. Her mother died after a period of ill health.


Photographed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Madison Square Gardens in New York. Lisette and Evsa Model spent the summer in San Francisco together with their friend, Pauline Schubert. Met a group of West Coast photographers and became close friends with several of them, including Ansel and Virginia Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Minor White.


Received official confirmation that her brother, Salvatór, had died in a concentration camp in Germany.


Travelled with her husband to Reno, Nevada, during the summer, on an assignment for Ladies’ Home Journal; a photo essay about divorce. Started teaching at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Fifteen of her works were shown in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition programme Leading Photographers, which toured until 1954.


The Models took lessons from the photographer Sid Grossman.


Started teaching more intensely, both at the New School for Social Research in New York and also privately. Alexey Brodovitch and Berenice Abbott were also teachers at the school. The exhibition Twelve Photographers and Christmas Photographs opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Started on a volume of photographs of jazz musicians. Worked on the book for the next five years, but never completed it, due to lack of funding.


Returned to Europe for the first time since emigrating to the USA, partly to negotiate the sale of the family property in Italy. Spent five months in France and Italy. Started on her photo series of monuments in Rome.


Went to Venezuela and portrayed politicians, public monuments and architecture, pedestrians in the streets, and Maracibo people. Portrayed jazz musicians at the Music Inn, Newport Jazz Festival (1954-56).


Contributed one work to Edward Steichen’s exhibition The Family of Man at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Portrayed jazz musicians at the New York Festivals and Downing Stadium at Randall’s Island (1956-61 and 1966-70), and Central Plaza. Diane Arbus started studying under Lisette Model. They were close friends until the death of Arbus in 1971.


Received a Guggenheim grant for her project Glamour: The Image of Our Image.


Visited Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Hollywood.


Went to Italy. Returned to New York earlier than planned, due to illness.


Evsa Model died.


24 of her pictures were printed in the December issue of Camera, which was devoted to her life and oeuvre.


Taught at the International Center of Photography in New York.


Exhibitions in Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands.


Retrospective at the New Orleans Museum of Art, Lisette Model. A Retrospective.


Went to France and Germany. Was awarded the “Medal of the City of Paris”.


Died on 30 March at the New York Hospital, aged 82.


Retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.


The exhibition Lisette Model: Fotografien 1934-1960 opened at the Kunsthalle in Vienna and went on to the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Zürich in 2001.


The exhibition Lisette Model was shown at Mois de la Photo before going on to Galerie Baudoin Lebon in Paris in 2003.

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