Alter's Family Album

Studio Photograph -
Rochester, N.Y. 1910

Alter Esselin was living in Chicago in the early 1920's and had already acquired some recognition as a Yiddish poet. He was probably thirty one at the time.

This picture must have been taken when Alter was around 30, and was busy trying to establish himself as an up and coming poet. He was always aware that his start in his career as an artist was somewhat later than most men began their efforts. His was belated because of the circumstances of his life, and not out of any failure of will, but it still bothered him that he was somewhat late in coming to the table.

The picture was drawn in 1923 when Alter Esselin was 34. This nearly life size charcoal portrait of Alter Esselin was done by a very well regarded artist of the time--I think his surname was Elkin (many of the Russian Jewish immigrant men of that time went by their surnames as a social custom) and he was so taken with the long poem "Proletariar" for which Alter won that prize, that he took the train from New York to Los Angeles for the purpose of doing that portrait. The picture did capture a certain inner spirit of the poet, and I think it was the best evocation of his attitude toward life.

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