Sipprell, Clara (1885–1975)

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Sipprell, Clara (1885–1975)

Canadian-born photographer. Born Clara Estelle Sipprell in Tillsonburg, Canada, in 1885; died in Bennington, Vermont, in 1975.

Born to a widowed mother in 1885, noted 20th-century photographer Clara Sipprell spent her early years in Canada, moving to Buffalo, New York, when she was ten. She left school in 1904, to assist her brother Frank in his photographic studio, and later became his partner in the enterprise. In Buffalo, Sipprell exhibited her early work in the Buffalo Camera Club's annual exhibitions from 1910 to 1914.

In 1915, Sipprell established her own studio in New York's Greenwich Village, and during the decades of the 1920s and 1930s, she reached the height of her career. Her work appeared in numerous magazines, including American Magazine of Art, American Girl, Mentor, and Revue du vrai et du beau. During this period, she exhibited at the second and third National Salon of Pictorial Photography at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo (1921 and 1922), the International Salon of the Pictorial Photographers of America in New York City, and at various locations in Europe, where she traveled extensively.

Sipprell's work, which included portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and cityscapes, was distinguished by its softly focused images and natural lighting. Many prominent people sat before her camera, including King Gustav V of Sweden, poet Robert Frost, author Pearl S. Buck , pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff, and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. In her portraits, Sipprell sought to create a mood and milieu complementary to the subject.

Sipprell spent her summers in Vermont, first in Thetford, then in Manchester, where she moved permanently in the 1960s. The photographer, who never married, died there in 1975. After her death, her work was rediscovered and catalogued in The Photo-Pictorialists of Buffalo. A major exhibition followed at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo in 1981. Another major retrospective, Clara Sipprell: Pictorial Photographer, was held in 1990, at the Amon Center Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, followed by a tour.


Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. NY: Abbeville Press, 1994.

suggested reading:

McCabe, Mary Kennedy. Clara Sipprell: Pictorial Photographer. Fort Worth, TX: Amon Carter Museum.