born in Iowa, graduated from the University of Chicago (1903), and became assistant music critic for the New York Times and dramatic critic for the New York Press. His critical articles are collected in several books, and the leading contents of these are preserved in two later selections, Red (1925) and Excavations (1926). With wit, urbanity, watered aesthetics, and an agile pen, Van Vechten described the manners and mannerisms of his era's decadent elegance in several novels: Peter Whiffle (1922), The Blind Bow-Boy (1923), and Firecrackers (1925), dealing with the sophisticated artistic set of New York; Spider Boy (1928), a satirical extravaganza on Hollywood; and Parties (1930), dealing with a group of sophisticated New York idlers. The Tattooed Countess (1924) is a novel set in the Iowa of the author's youth, and Nigger Heaven (1926) is a sympathetic, realistic treatment of Harlem life, which did much to stimulate the interest of sophisticates in black culture. After Sacred and Profane Memories (1932) he forsook writing for photography. He was editor of Gertrude Stein's posthumously published books.
Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).