February 2017
Dimitri Tiomkin publicity portraits

In last month’s Behind the photograph: Dimitri Tiomkin portrait by Gyenes we took a look at a picture of the composer taken by a master photographer in Spain. This month we examine more portraits from Tiomkin’s lengthy career.

In Hollywood, the standard 8-inch by 10-inch glossy black-and-white publicity portrait was handed out by aspiring actors and others seeking work in an industry where facial recognition may be second only to name recognition. These same portrait photos served a secondary publicity purpose when they were autographed and handed out to admirers or sent in the mail to fans. Tiomkin himself collected many such mementoes from mutual admirers, from director Alfred Hitchcock to actor Rock Hudson, as seen below.

Alfred Hitchcock

Rock Hudson


Below we take a look at a sampling of Tiomkin’s publicity portraits (in roughly chronological order). Tiomkin sat for some of the best studio photographers in Hollywood, including Clarence Sinclair Bull, Robert Coburn, George Hurrell, and Bert Six.

The first four photographs are related to Tiomkin’s burgeoning career as a concert pianist in Berlin, Paris, and New York in the 1920s.

This serious, highly retouched, image of Tiomkin may have been taken in Berlin and dates from the early 1920s.

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait, circa early-1920s

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait, circa early-1920s.

The portrait below of Tiomkin in thoughtful repose adorned his Carnegie Hall recital program in 1927.

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait, 1925

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait by [Roginsky], 1925

A formal portrait by photographer Leon Elzin in New York dates from 1925. The picture of a dapper and grinning Tiomkin is from the same sitting as photographs of Tiomkin with pianist Michael Khariton. The images were probably ordered at the behest of Albertina Rasch to publicize the duo pianists in their role accompany her ballets performed in vaudeville houses and concert halls. Elzin also was responsible for the portraits of Tiomkin and Rasch at the time of their marriage the following year. A number of émigré musicians were photographed by Elzin in New York, including composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait, 1925

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait by Leon Elzin, 1925

When Tiomkin concertized in Paris in 1928, the following more serious portrait by Nickolas Muray appeared in the program.

Hungarian photographer Nickolas Muray (1892–1965) came to the attention of New York society and celebrities in the 1920s when his portraits began appearing in Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair. Around the time this photo was taken in 1928 by Muray, the multi-talented artist competed in the Summer Olympics as part of the United States fencing team. He returned to the Olympics in 1932.

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait, 1928

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait by Nickolas Muray, 1928

One of the best-known Hollywood portrait photographers, Clarence Sinclair Bull (1896–1979), took the first publicity portrait of Tiomkin in Hollywood. It probably dates from 1929 when Tiomkin and his wife, choreographer Albertina Rasch, were working at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in Culver City. Bull was on the payroll at MGM and excelled at taking black-and-white portraits of Hollywood movie stars, notably for actress Greta Garbo.

In the profile portrait of Tiomkin, the composer concentrates while staring off in the distance as he puts pen to paper. The Bull portrait marks the beginning of Tiomkin’s transition to composer from concert pianist and it may, in fact, be the first picture of Tiomkin in the act of composing (or at least posing in the act of composing!).

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait by Clarence Sinclair Bull


A 1951 portrait by noted portrait photographer Robert Coburn (1900–1990) may have been commissioned by the Stanley Kramer company or Columbia Pictures. The photo’s caption notes that Tiomkin has been associated with the Kramer company since its first film. The Kramer films were released by Columbia where Coburn was a staff photographer. Tiomkin looks at ease in a picture that is noticeably brighter with less contrast than earlier images.

Dimitri Tiomkin publicity portrait, 1951

Dimitri Tiomkin publicity portrait by Robert Coburn, 1951

What may be the best-known and widely distributed portrait of Tiomkin was taken by photographer Kas Heppner for the Metropolitan Photo Service in New York. The enigmatic Heppner—biographical information is nonexistent—snapped celebrities from Dorothy Dandridge to Marilyn Monroe. A member of the New York Press Photographers Association, he worked for the Metropolitan Photo Service, a company that covered public events for the press, supplying images to newspapers as well as periodicals, such as Billboard and Life magazines.

Dimitri Tiomkin publicity portrait

Dimitri Tiomkin publicity portrait by Kas Heppner for the Metropolitan Photo Service in New York.

READ: Allan Grant’s Tiomkin photograph for Life magazine, 1955

One of the few color portraits of Tiomkin, seen below in a black-and-white version and then color. Warner Bros. studio photographer Bert Six captured Tiomkin with a wide grin in front of some swirling musical notation.

Dimitri Tiomkin publicity portrait

Dimitri Tiomkin publicity portrait by Bert Six, circa 1956

Dimitri Tiomkin

Dimitri Tiomkin portrait by Bert Six, circa 1956

A portrait by Juan Gyenes from the 1960s with its stark black background recalls the look of classic Hollywood studio-era portraits.

Tiomkin Gyenes portrait no 1


Visit our Photo Gallery to see these and more publicity portraits.

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