Many faces of David Sarnoff

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

David Sarnoff does a jumping jack

It’s perhaps no surprise that there are many photographs of David Sarnoff, and in fact there are many thousands of such photos found in the David Sarnoff Library Collection. These photographs range from childhood family portraits, to photographs of David Sarnoff’s last public appearances, and everything in between.

Taken together, these photographs offer a fascinating chronology of Sarnoff’s professional and public life, but a 1953 photograph of David Sarnoff jumping in mid-air is arguably the most distinct in the collection. The photograph was taken by photographer Philippe Halsman, who was well known for his “jump” style photographs of celebrities, as well as collaborations with artist Salvador Dali.

The collection contains several other Halsman portraits of David Sarnoff in more traditional poses, but the image of Sarnoff jumping is one of a kind.

Drawing of Sarnoff

Photographers were not the only artists who created images of Sarnoff during his lifetime. For example, noted artist Bettina Steinke created a drawn portrait of David Sarnoff in 1938 (below). It is perhaps no coincidence that the same year she drew Sarnoff’s portrait, Steinke was commissioned to paint charcoal portraits of the 100 member NBC Symphony Orchestra, along with their conductors, Arturo Toscanini and Ignace Paderewski. Only a year earlier, Steinke had been commissioned to create a mural for the 10th Anniversary of NBC Radio.

Over the years, at least several paintings were made of David Sarnoff by the C.J. Fox portrait company. In this September 30, 1966 photo, we see Robert Sarnoff unveiling a C.J. Fox painting of his father at the celebration marking David Sarnoff’s 60th anniversary in communications and electronics:

Sarnoff's son unveils a painting of his father at a party

David Sarnoff’s likeness is found not only in the traditional two dimensional arts, but can also be seen depicted in sculpture. In this 1937 photograph, we see sculptor Jo Davidson with the bust he created of Sarnoff:

Sculptor Jo Davidson poses with his bust of Sarnoff


Kenneth Cleary is the Sarnoff Project Archivist in the Audiovisual and Digital Initiatives Department.