Smithsonian Collections

Billie Holiday

Image for Billie Holiday
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition Label
Duke Ellington called Billie Holiday "the essence of cool," a reference to her equipoise in performance. The most influential jazz vocalist of all time, Holiday had a controlled emotional power that transformed even trite ballads into romantic short stories. Born Eleonora Harris and partially raised in a New York City brothel, she crafted a cool vocal style by tempering Bessie Smith’s shouting power with Louis Armstrong’s rhythmic nuance, then honed her craft on the road with the Count Basie Orchestra. Lester Young named her "Lady Day," and in their chamber jazz classics, such as "All of Me," voice and saxophone curl around each other into smoky swirls of late-night yearning. Late in life Holiday, a drug addict and survivor of abusive relationships, sang in a cracked, broken voice that remained true to the jazz practice of self-expression.
Artist
Bob Willoughby, 30 Jun 1927 - 18 Dec 2009
Sitter
Billie Holiday, 7 Apr 1915 - 17 Jul 1959
Date
1951 (printed 1991)
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bob Willoughby
Medium
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions
Image: 25.2 x 35.3 cm. (19 15/16 x 13 15/16")
Sheet: 40.2 x 30.2 cm. (11 7/8 x 15 13/16")
Mat: 55.9 x 71.1cm (22 x 28")
Type
Photograph
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
NPG.97.96
Culture
Billie Holiday: American\African American
Topic
Costume\Jewelry\Necklace
Costume\Jewelry\Earring
Interior
Billie Holiday: Female
Billie Holiday: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Singer\Jazz
Portrait
Place
United States\California\Los Angeles\Los Angeles
Restrictions & Rights
© Bob Willoughby