Sarah Vaughan

image for Sarah Vaughan
Exhibition Label
Born Newark, New Jersey
Known popularly as “the divine Sarah” and “Sassy,” Sarah Vaughan was regarded as one of the premier female vocalists of her day. Drawn to music from an early age, she studied piano and sang in her church choir as a youth. When Vaughan was eighteen, she entered an amateur talent contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater on a dare and won first prize. This success led to frequent invitations to perform alongside the leading figures in contemporary jazz, including Earl “Fatha” Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Eckstein. Adept at bebop improvisation, Vaughan possessed a wonderfully versatile voice that complemented a larger jazz ensemble. By 1950—the year in which Josef Breitenbach created this portrait—she was selling upwards of three million records a year. During this period, a poll in Down Beat magazine named her the top female singer for six consecutive years.
Josef Breitenbach, 1896 - 1984
Sarah Vaughan, 27 Mar 1924 - 3 Apr 1990
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
© The Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation
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National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
Sarah Vaughan: Female
Sarah Vaughan: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Pianist
Sarah Vaughan: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Singer\Jazz
Sarah Vaughan: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Jazz
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.2 x 26.7 cm (13 7/16 x 10 1/2")
Sheet: 25.4 x 27.8 cm (10 x 10 15/16")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9 cm (28 x 22")
Frame: 71.9 x 56.7 x 3.2 cm (28 5/16 x 22 5/16 x 1 1/4")
National Portrait Gallery