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Yousuf Karsh fonds

[multiple media]


ca. 355,870 photographs and other material.
18 film reels (ca. 3 h).
12 audio cassettes (ca. 5 h).
8 audio discs (ca. 1 h, 30 min).
24 audio reels (ca. 12 h, 30 min).
13 videocassettes (ca. 13 h, 30 min).
70.71 m of textual records.
3 watercolours.
1 sculpture ceramic.
10 plaques.
20 medals.
1 object: illustrated tin lid.
11 pictures.
16 postal covers.
2 postage stamps.
4 panes of postage stamps
10 blocks of postage stamps.


Yousuf Karsh was born in Mardin, Armenia, December 23, 1908. In 1924 he was brought to Canada by his Uncle, George Nakash, a photographer. After brief schooling in Sherbrooke, Quebec, he went to work for his uncle. He was apprenticed from 1928 to 1931 to John Garo of Boston, a noted portrait photographer. Karsh returned to work for his uncle briefly, but moved to Ottawa in 1932 to work for John Powis, and opened his own studio shortly thereafter. He became involved with the Ottawa Little Theatre in 1932, where he met his first wife Solange Gauthier. They married in 1939. This theatre connection also established contacts with many of the Ottawa political and cultural elite. As Karsh's work became known, members of Government, visiting statesmen and other dignitaries came to him to be photographed. Solange Karsh died in 1961, and Yousuf married Estrellita Maria Nachbar in 1962.

In December 1941 he made his famous portrait of Winston Churchill, in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Published on the cover of Life Magazine, this portrait is generally considered to have established Karsh's international career and reputation. During WWII, at the request of the Canadian Government, he went to England and made a series of portraits of the leading personalities of that period. Although known generally for his portraiture, Karsh has worked in a number of photographic genres. His oeuvre also includes a series of photographs of Canadian cities, a series on Canada and its people, substantial commercial work, depictions of factory workers, and movie stills. Yousuf Karsh was the first photographer to have a one-man exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. At EXPO '67 he was the only artist to have a one-man exhibition of his work - 'Men Who Make Our World' a major exhibition of over 100 portraits, which also toured major museums in Europe and North America.

Karsh's work is represented in the permanent collections of not only the National Archives but also the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Portrait Gallery in London, England, the St. Louis Art Museum and the George Eastman House in Rochester. He has published a number of monographs of his work throughout his career, including an autobiography in 1962. Eight universities have conferred honorary degrees upon him, and he has been Visiting Professor in the School of Fine Arts at Ohio University. In 1965 Karsh was awarded the Canada Council Medal and in 1968 the Medal of Service of the Order of Canada. He was the first photographer to receive the Medal of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the first to be made an Honorary Master of Photographic Arts by the Professional Photographers of Canada. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. In 1971 he was awarded the Presidential Citation (USA) for meritorious service on behalf of the handicapped. In 1975 he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Karsh closed the Karsh Studio at the Chateau Laurier and retired in 1992.

Karsh died on 13 July 2002 at Boston, Massachusetts, his home since leaving Ottawa in 1997.


Fonds consists of eleven series comprising the studio and personal archives of renowned portraitist Yousuf Karsh over a period of more than five decades, including studio portraits, commercial assignments and personal explorations, as well as his business and personal records. The fonds contains a variety of photographic formats, textual records, audio-visual records, philatelic projects and art work. The photographic material consists of portraits of the most recognized names from the domains of science, politics, arts, religion and business of the twentieth century, as well as prominent Canadians, captains of industry, society portraits and commissioned portraits of people from all sectors. It also includes various advertising and publicity projects, film still work, the Canadian Cities series for Maclean's magazine, and other magazine and publishing projects. The textual records include documentation of his various businesses, business and personal correspondence over the length of his career, financial and travel records, clippings and scrapbooks, and files documenting his major projects. The fonds also includes Karsh's awards and honours, material accumulated by Karsh on John Garo, whom Karsh apprenticed with, and miscellaneous historical material collected by Karsh over the years.

R613-259-2-E — Business and personal records [textual record] ( Série)
R613-260-9-E — Karsh studio photographic records [graphic material, textual record] ( Série)
R613-351-1-E — Prints acquired separately [graphic material] ( Série)
R613-359-6-E — Scrapbooks and clippings [textual record, object] ( Série)
R613-360-2-E — Awards and honours [textual record, object] ( Série)
R613-363-8-E — Personal photographs [graphic material] ( Série)
R613-364-X-E — Fine art drawings and memorabilia [graphic material, object] ( Série)
R613-365-1-E — Interviews and documentaries [moving images, sound recording] ( Série)
R613-372-9-E — Special projects [multiple media] ( Série)
R613-374-2-E — Garo collection [textual record] ( Série)
R613-375-4-E — Historical material [graphic material] ( Série)

NOUVEAU : R613-0-5-E

Objet      90: Ouvert
Documents philatéliques      90: Ouvert
Documents textuels      96: Restrictions varient : Textual records: Access conditions. r000000996.pdf
Documents sonores      18: Restreint par le créateur/donateur : Sound recordings: Access to material in accession 1998-0050 (VSA) is restricted. Access to material in accession 1990-0117 (MISA) is open for consultation.
Documents iconographiques (photo)      90: Ouvert
Documents iconographiques (art)      90: Ouvert
Images en mouvement (film)      18: Restreint par le créateur/donateur : Moving images: Access to material in accession 1998-0050 (VSA) is restricted. Material in accession 1990-0118 (MISA) is open for consultation.
Images en mouvement (vidéo)      18: Restreint par le créateur/donateur : Moving images: Access to material in accession 1998-0050 (VSA) is restricted.

Various copyright and restrictions. See media descriptions.

Moving images: Reproduction with written permission of copyright owner and donor.

Textual records: The recipient of copies is responsible for determining whether material is subject to copyright and for ascertaining the name of the person or organization holding copyright. The recipient is also responsible for determining whether any use of copyrighted material does or does not constitute an infringement of copyright under the Copyright Act.

Sound recordings: Reproduction with written permission of copyright owner and donor.


Yousuf and Estrellita Karsh.

Papier - Graphic material No. Finding aids exist for some of the photographic material. 197 -1

Électronique - Textual records The finding aid is a file list No. MSS2171 90 p000000690.pdf

Électronique - Sound recordings Refer to MINISIS for item-level descriptions. -1

Papier - Sound recordings Refer to Audio-Visual Acquistion and Research Collection File for title list. -1

Papier - Moving images Refer to Audio-Visual Acquistion and Research Collection File for title list. -1

Électronique - Moving images Refer to MINISIS for item-level descriptions. -1


Faces of Destiny / Yousuf Karsh. - New York : Ziff-Davis, 1946. Canadian Strength

Further accruals are expected.

National Gallery of Canada; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Portrait Gallery, London, England; St. Louis Art Museum; George Eastman House, Rochester.

Other records relating to Yousuf Karsh can be found in: the Canada Post Fonds, and in the photographic accessions 1988-226, 1976-255, and art accession 1997-370.

Textual records date from 1925. Photographic records date from 1933.

Karsh, Yousuf, 1908-2002 /



MIKAN 138136
Mise à jour : 2006-03 de MIKAN3

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