Only Known Signed Photograph of Albert Einstein's Iconic Act of Playful Defiance Available at Auction
AMHERST, NH - June 4, 2009 - An autographed version of one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century is being made available for purchase in the current RR Auction.
In 1953, at the height of the 1950s Communist witch-hunt, Albert Einstein signed the photo for award-winning CBS and ABC anchor reporter Howard K. Smith as a gesture of his admiration of Smith's work. The German inscription (translated) states: "This gesture you will like, Because it is aimed at all of humanity. A civilian can afford to do what no diplomat would dare." Einstein's statement clearly shows his keen senses of both humor and defiance.
"This photo of Einstein sticking his tongue out captures his spirit of rebelliousness and non-conformity," said John Reznikoff of University Archives www.universityarchives.com in Westport, Connecticut, when shown the photo. "It is without a doubt the most desirable photo of Einstein I have ever seen."
The photograph was taken by UPI photographer Arthur Sasse on March 14, 1951, following an event at Princeton to honor Einstein on his 72nd birthday. While Sasse tried mightily to convince the physicist to smile for the camera, the reaction he received, recorded forever on film, was humorously unexpected! Einstein was so amused by the image that he contacted UPI and requested nine prints for his personal use.
The photo being offered for sale is the one that Einstein gave to Smith, to whom he listened regularly, and is the only one of the nine that has ever been made available for public purchase. The value of the image, with its connection between scientist and newsman, makes it historically significant.
By 1953, Einstein had boldly begun speaking out against McCarthyism when he wrote a nationally-published letter that stated, "Every intellectual who is called before one of the committees ought to refuse to testify." That same year, an electrical engineer was called before McCarthy's committee and refused to testify with the explanation that he was following "advice from Professor Einstein."
Reznikoff believes Einstein knew the risky implication of his now-famous gesture. "You can tell by the inscription that he fully understood the power the image conveyed, and what he was doing was quite dangerous considering the Government was forcing intellectuals to name names."
Marcia Bartusiak www.marciabartusiak.com/marcia_bartusiak.htm, author of Einstein's Unfinished Symphony and The Day We Found the Universe, believes the photo has become such a timeless symbol of non-conformity "because it shows one of history's greatest men doing something very out of character for what we imagine great figures of history should look like. It's a jolt to see science's most familiar face doing something just a bit naughty."
Other items of particular interest among the more than 1,500 lots to be offered in the June RR Auction include a scarce handwritten letter Einstein wrote in 1939 offering to help a Jewish family trapped in Nazi Germany.