Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Bertrand Russell

Lord Bertrand Russell, 1949

Bertrand Russell was born today, May 18, in 1872 (d. 1970). Russell was a philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, the year after this portrait was made. Karsh wrote:

‘Happiness,’ said the most controversial and certainly the most impish of modern philosophers, ‘comes from pandering to one’s self-esteem.’ I judged from the gleam of mischief in Lord Russell’s eye that this was likely to prove a controversial sitting. I was wrong. My subject delights to tilt with intellectual giants, he expresses a profound and almost terrifying pessimism, but is quite amenable before the camera. He distracted me with his dark thoughts when my mind should have been on my work.

See the portrait that shows the glint.