Constance Stuart Larrabee collection
Scope and Contents
The Constance Stuart Larrabee collection includes artifacts, correspondence, exhibition files, photographs, negatives, and publication files of Constance Stuart Larrabee, photographer and South Africa’s first woman war correspondent. A bulk of the materials document Larrabee’s time in Europe as a correspondent and photographer during World War II. Materials date from 1935-2000.
- Creation: 1935-2000
- Larrabee, Constance Stuart (Creator, Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.
Constance Stuart Larrabee (August 7 1914-July 27 2000) was a photographer and South Africa’s first woman war correspondent in World War II. Her work has been exhibited internationally and nationally across the United States, including in several exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Born in Cornwall England, Stuart moved with her family to South Africa when only a few months old. As a teenager and young adult Larrabee studied photography in London, England and Munich, Germany before returning to South Africa and opening the Constance Stuart Portrait Studio in Pretoria in 1936. She opened a second studio in Johannesburg in 1946. While working as a portrait photographer, Stuart also began photographing South Africa’s Bushmen, Zulu, Ndebele, Lovedu, Swazi, Sotho, and Transkei peoples.
In 1944, Stuart was appointed by the director of South African Military Intelligence as South Africa’s first woman war correspondent. Stuart covered the Allied invasion for Europe for the South African magazine Libertas, travelling throughout Egypt, France, and Italy. Following her time photographing the war and immediate aftermath, Stuart returned to South Africa in March 1945 and had several solo exhibitions. Stuart published writings and photographs of her experiences during the war in a memoir named “Jeep Trek” in Spotlight magazine in 1946.
Constance Stuart married American Colonel Sterling Larrabee in 1949, moved to a waterfront farm near Chestertown, Maryland in 1950, and became an American citizen in 1953. At this time, Larrabee began breeding champion Norwich and Norfolk terriers. In 1983-1984, Larrabee founded Washington College Friends of the Arts in Chestertown, Maryland.
Throughout the 1950s-1990s, Larrabee’s photographs were displayed and travelled in various individual and group exhibitions. Noted exhibitions include Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man in 1995, solo exhibition Tribal Photographs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1984, Frances Fralin’s The Indelible Image in 1985, and solo exhibition WWII Photo Journal at The National Women of Women in the Arts in 1989.
In 1997 Larrabee donated her African photographs to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art, her World War II photographs to the Corcoran Gallery, and her photographs of the Eastern Shore to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. All three institutions exhibited this work simultaneously in 1998. Constance Stuart Larrabee died at her home in Chestertown, Maryland on July 27, 2000.
Constance Stuart Larrabee personal and professional chronology
- 1914 August 7
- Born in Cornwall England. Three months later sailed with her family to Cape Town, South Africa. Lived on a tin mine in the northern Transvaal.
- Moved to Pretoria. Given her first camera, a Kodak No. 0 Box Brownie. In 1930 won First Place in Photography, "Boys and Girls Achievement Week," Pretoria Agricultural Society.
- Attended the Regent Street Polytechnic School of Photography, London. Apprentice in two professional portrait studios in Soho and Berkeley Square.
- Advanced studies at the Bavarian State Institute for Photography, Munich. Introduced to the Rolleiflex camera, which she used throughout her career.
- Established the Constance Stuart Portrait Studio in Pretoria. In 1946 opened a second studio in Johannesburg.
- Began her lifelong interest in photographing South Africa's vanishing ethnic cultures: the Bushmen, Zulu, Ndebele, Lovedu, Swazi, Sotho and Transkei peoples.
- Solo exhibition: The Malay Quarter. Opened by Noel Coward in Pretoria. Traveled to Cape Town.
- Appointed by the director of South African Military Intelligence as South Africa's first woman war correspondent on behalf of Libertas magazine. Served in Egypt, Italy, France, and England. Attached to the American Seventh Army in France, and accredited to SHAEF, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. In Italy she was attached to the South African Sixth Armoured Division, under the command of the American Fifth Army, and the British Eighth Army.
- Solo exhibition: A Tribute to the South African Sixth Division and the United States Seventh Army. Traveled through South Africa. Published "Jeep Trek" in Spotlight magazine.
- Solo exhibition: The Lovedu, Pretoria. Official photographer for the Royal Visit to the three British Protectorates of Basutoland, Swaziland and Bechuanaland. Kalahari Desert expedition to photograph the Bushmen.
- Produced portfolio of photographs on the author Alan Paton and his book, Cry the Beloved Country. Photographs published in: Bantu Prophets in South Africa by Bengt Sundkler (London: Camelot Press, 1948).
- Married Sterling Loop Larrabee of Warrentown, Virginia, U.S. Military Attache to South Africa, Yugoslavia (government in exile) and Greece during World War II.
- Moved to a historic, waterfront farm near Chestertown, Maryland. Began breeding champion Norwich and Norfolk terriers.
- Photographs published in: The Basuto by Hugh Aston (London: Oxford University Press, 1952).
- Solo exhibition: Tribal Women of South Africa, The American Museum of Natural History, New York. Traveled in the United States and Canada through 1957. Became an American citizen.
- Group exhibition: The Family of Man, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Traveled nationally and internationally.
- Solo exhibition: The Silent Harmony of Hand and Mind, the story of Steuben crystal, the Commercial Museum, Philadelphia. Traveled nationally.
- Solo exhibition: Photographs by Constance Stuart Larrabee, a retrospective, the South African National Gallery, Cape Town. First solo show by a woman photographer at the National Gallery. Traveled to the Johannesburg Art Gallery and the Pretoria Art Museum as the first photographic exhibition in each museum.
- Solo exhibition: Celebration on the Chesapeake, Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland. In honor of the college's bicentennial. Traveled within Maryland and to Philadelphia.
- Catalogue: Celebration on the Chesapeake, published by King's prevention Press and supported in part by a grant from the Kent County Arts Council. Solo exhibitions: The Constance Stuart Larrabee Celebration, 1933-1983, The South African Association of Arts, Pretoria, and The Art Gallery, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Nagmaal 1947, The Photo Gallery, The Market Theatre Foundation, Johannesburg.
- Founded Washington College Friends of the Arts, Chestertown, Maryland.
- Solo exhibition: Tribal Photographs, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Traveled to the Santa Fe Center for Photography, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- Group exhibition: The Indelible Image: Photographs of War, 1864 to the Present, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Traveled to The Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, and The Rice Museum, Houston, Texas. Catalogue. Solo exhibition: Go Well My Child, in collaboration with Alon Paton, The National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Photographs now in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art. Catalogue.
- Group exhibition: Bon Voyage, The Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York. Honorary degree of Doctor of Arts from Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland.
- Solo exhibition: Seek What Is True, in collaboration with Alan Paton, Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina.
- Solo exhibitions: African Profile, Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Seek What Is True, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts.
- Chairman, Washington College Friends of the Arts, Chestertown, Maryland. Endowed the Constance Stuart Larrabee Creative Arts Center, Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland.
- Donated her African images to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art, her World War II pictures to the Corcoran Gallery, and her views of the Eastern Shore to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
- Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum simultaneously exhibited the newly-donated collections.
- 2000 July 27
- Died in her home in Chestertown, Maryland.
9 Linear Feet (6 record center boxes)
Language of Materials
Constance Stuart Larrabee (August 7 1914-July 27 2000) was a photographer and South Africa’s first woman war correspondent in World War II. Throughout the 1950s-1990s, Larrabee’s photographs were displayed and travelled in various individual and group exhibitions, including several exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The Constance Stuart Larrabee collection includes artifacts, correspondence, exhibition files, photographs, negatives, and publication files of Constance Stuart Larrabee, photographer and South Africa’s first woman war correspondent. A bulk of the materials document Larrabee’s time in Europe as a correspondent and photographer during World War II. Materials date from 1935-2000.
Arranged in 4 series: Photos, contact sheets, and negatives; Publications and textual materials; WWII Documents and artifacts; and Exhibitions.
Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Corcoran Institution Board of Trustees donated these records to The George Washington University in 2016.
- Guide to the Constance Stuart Larrabee collection, 1935-2000
- Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English