<b>1936</b> | Death of a Loyalist soldier, Spain, 1936. Originally published in the July 12, 1937, issue of LIFE.
1936 | Death of a Loyalist soldier, Spain, 1936. Originally published in the July 12, 1937, issue of LIFE.Robert Capa&mdash;Magnum
<b>1936</b> | Death of a Loyalist soldier, Spain, 1936. Originally published in the July 12, 1937, issue of LIFE.
Astronomer Edwin Hubble peers though the eyepiece of the 100-inch Hooker telescope at California's Mt. Wilson Observatory. Originally published in the November 8, 1937, issue of LIFE.
President Franklin Roosevelt listens to a speech during the annual Jackson Day fundraising dinner in Washington, DC. Originally published in the January 24, 1938, issue of LIFE.
Aerial view of a DC-4 passenger plane flying over midtown Manhattan. An almost identical photograph from this shoot was published in the June 19, 1939, issue of LIFE.
A heavily bandaged British infant, Margaret Curtis, badly injured in a German blitzkrieg attack on London during the Battle of Britain. Originally published in the September 9, 1940, issue of LIFE.
Kappa Sigma Epsilon fraternity members toss blankets out the window of their house in preparation for a spring "blanket party" under the stars at Kansas State Teacher's College. Originally published in the May 26, 1941, issue of LIFE.
Row upon row of WACs (Women's Army Corps members) don gas masks for a training drill at Iowa's Fort Des Moines. Originally published in the September 7, 1942, issue of LIFE.
Professional dancers Willa Mae Ricker and Leon James demonstrate how the Lindy Hop is meant to be danced. Originally published in the August 23, 1943, issue of LIFE.
In the face of devastating German fire, American troops land at Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Originally published in the June 19, 1944, issue of LIFE.
On August 14, 1945 — VJ Day — a jubilant sailor plants a kiss on a nurse in Times Square to celebrate the Allies' long- awaited World War II victory over Japan. Originally published (not as a cover shot, as most people assume today, but as just one in a series of "VJ Day victory celebration"
LIFE photographer W. Eugene Smith's children, Juanita and Patrick, walk hand-in-hand into a clearing in 1946. The photo was the closing image in Edward Steichen's now-legendary 1955 MoMA exhibition, The Family of Man, and was one of the very first that Smith, wounded while working in the Pacific in World War II, made after the war.
Heavyweight champ Joe Louis lies on the canvas at (the old, original) Madison Square Garden in New York after being floored by contender Jersey Joe Walcott in a December 1947 title match. Louis came back to win by a controversial decision. Originally published in the December 15, 1947 issue of LIFE.
Dr. Ernest Ceriani, a general practitioner in tiny Kremmling, Colorado, stands in the town's hospital kitchen after a surgery that lasted until 2 AM. This was the final image in W. Eugene Smith's groundbreaking photo essay, "Country Doctor," originally published in the September 20, 1948, issue of LIFE.
Pablo Picasso drafts a centaur in mid-air with a "light pen" in southeastern France. Originally published in the January 30, 1950, issue of LIFE.
Early in the Korean War, American Marines march through bitter cold down a canyon road they dubbed "Nightmare Alley" during a grim retreat from the Chosin Reservoir. Originally published in the December 25, 1950, issue of LIFE.
In the single most famous image from W. Eugene Smith's magisterial photo essay, "Spanish Village," the faces of three members of dictator Francisco Franco's feared Guardia Civil evince the arrogance often assumed by small men granted great power over others. Originally published in the April 9, 1951, issue of LIFE.
Riveted audience members enjoy opening night of the first full-length American 3-D feature film: the Arch Oboler-directed drama, Bwana Devil. Originally published in the December 15, 1952, issue of LIFE.
Senator John Kennedy and his bride, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, smile during their wedding reception, September 12, 1953, in Newport, Rhode Island. Originally published in the September 26, 1953, issue of LIFE.
Light beams create a contour map of a human head during an Air Force study of jet-pilot helmets. Originally published, as the cover image, on the December 6, 1954, issue of LIFE.
Hunkering against the cold and rain, a haunted-looking James Dean strolls through Times Square, mere blocks from the famous Actors Studio where he and other legends-to-be studied "the Method." Originally published in the March 7, 1955, issue of LIFE.
"Eyes right" is executed with near-military precision by men aboard a New York-bound 20th Century Limited train as movie star Kim Novak eases into her seat in the dining car. Originally published in the March 5, 1956, issue of LIFE.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at the landmark Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, DC, one of the earliest mass rallies of the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. Paul Schutzer took this photograph in 1957, but it did not appear in LIFE until the April 12, 1968, issue — one week after Dr. King was assassinated.
On the screen of a drive-in theater in Utah, Charlton Heston, as Moses in the The Ten Commandments, throws his arms wide before what appears to be a congregation of cars at prayer. Originally published in the December 22, 1958, issue of LIFE.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor jump for photographer Philippe Halsman. Originally published in the November 9, 1959, issue of LIFE
In a Los Angeles hotel suite, John F. Kennedy confers with his brother and campaign manager Bobby during the Democratic National Convention, at which JFK was picked as the 1960 party nominee. Originally published in the July 25, 1960, issue of LIFE.
Freedom Riders Julia Aaron and David Dennis sit aboard an interstate bus as they and 25 other civil rights activists are escorted by Mississippi National Guardsmen on a violence-marred trip between Montgomery, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi. Originally published in the June 2, 1961, issue of LIFE.
Shot for LIFE by photographer Bill Ray in May 1962, this now-iconic image of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden never appeared in the weekly magazine.
New York Commuters read of John F. Kennedy's assassination, November 1963. This Carl Mydans photo did not appear in LIFE when the magazine published as a weekly, but has been printed in later books.
Four lads from Liverpool — Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr — take a dip in an unheated Miami Beach swimming pool during a cold snap on their first trip to the States. "We could not find a heated pool that could be closed off from the rest of the press," photographer John Loengard later said of this picture, "so we settled for one that was not ... [and they] started turning blue." Originally published in the February 28, 1964, issue of LIFE.
In one of the most eloquent photographs ever made of a great athlete in decline, Yankee star Mickey Mantle flings his batting helmet away in disgust after another terrible at-bat near the end of his storied, injury-plagued career. Originally published in the July 30, 1965, issue of LIFE.
Wounded Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie (center) moves to try and comfort a stricken comrade after a fierce firefight during the Vietnam War. Photographed for an essay that ran in the October 28, 1966, issue of LIFE, this Larry Burrows picture — now regarded as one of the handful of utterly indispensable images from the war — did not appear in the magazine until February 1971.
A leopard, seconds away from killing a terrified baboon, in a hair-raising picture that was, photographer John Dominis admits, entirely staged. Originally published in the January 6, 1967, issue of LIFE.
Senator Robert Kennedy lies in a pool of his own blood on the floor of the kitchen at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, June 5, 1968, after being shot by Jordanian-born assassin Sirhan Sirhan. A dazed, frightened hotel busboy, Juan Romero, tries to comfort the mortally wounded presidential candidate, who died hours later. Robert Kennedy was 42 years old. Originally published in the June 14, 1968, issue of LIFE.
Concert-goers huddle under a sheet of cardboard in the rain at the three-day, era-defining Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Bethel, New York. Originally published in the August 29, 1969, issue of LIFE.
A crush of straphangers crowds a subway car in Manhattan. Originally published in the January 9, 1970, issue of LIFE.
Challenger Muhammad Ali taunts heavyweight champ Joe Frazier at Frazier's training camp in Pennsylvania ahead of their March 1971 "Fight of the Century" title bout at Madison Square Garden. Frazier retained the championship belt in a unanimous 15-round decision. Originally published in the March 5, 1971, issue of LIFE.
A masked Palestinian terrorist looks out from a balcony of the athletes' housing complex during the Munich Summer Olympics. On September 5, eight Palestinian guerrillas took 11 Israeli athletes and coaches hostage, and subsequently murdered all of them, in what came to be known as the "Munich Massacre" — the most infamous and violent outrage in Olympic history. Originally published in the September 15,1972, issue of LIFE.
1936 | Death of a Loyalist soldier, Spain, 1936. Originally published in the July 12, 1937, issue of LIFE.
Robert Capa—Magnum
1 of 37

The Best of LIFE: 37 Years in Pictures

Nov 20, 2014

Over several decades spanning the heart of the 20th century, one American magazine ― calling itself, plainly and boldly, LIFE ― published many of the most memorable photographs ever made. Driven by the certainty that the art of photojournalism could tell stories and move people in ways that traditional reporting simply could not, LIFE pursued a grand vision, articulated by the magazine's co-founder, Henry Luce, that not only acknowledged the primacy of the picture, but enshrined it.

"To see life," Luce wrote in a now-famous 1936 mission statement, delineating both his new venture's workmanlike method and its lofty aims. "To see the world; to eyewitness great events . . . to see and be amazed."

The roster of talent associated with Luce's audacious publishing gamble is, in a word, staggering: W. Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Carl Mydans, Andreas Feininger, John Loengard, Gordon Parks, John Dominis, Hansel Mieth, Grey Villet, David Douglas Duncan, Bill Ray, Paul Schutzer, Ralph Morse, Michael Rougier, Eliot Elisofon, Nina Leen, Larry Burrows, Gjon Mili and dozens of other groundbreaking photojournalists not only shot for LIFE, but were on staff at the magazine.

"In the course of a week," Luce noted in 1936, "the U.S. citizen sees many pictures. He may see travel pictures in travel magazines, art pictures in art digests, cinema pictures in cinemagazines, scientific pictures in scientific journals. But nowhere can he see the cream of all the world's pictures brought together for him to enjoy and study in one sitting."

The cream of all the world's pictures. A nervy assertion ― but an assertion repeatedly affirmed by LIFE's tireless, innovative photographers and the work they produced, issue by issue, week after week, year upon year. World war and peaceful revolutions; Hollywood icons and history-shaping villains; the Space Race and civil rights; Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Old Man and the Sea published ― in its entirety ― in one issue, and a breathless cover story on a now-long-forgotten Hollywood ingénue in the next: however momentous the event, however legendary, notorious or simply of-the-moment the person, LIFE was there.

Today, those breathtaking pictures live here, on LIFE.com. Resurrected through trailblazing photo essays, lighthearted features, and previously unpublished photographs of the century's leading figures and most pivotal, meaningful moments, Henry Luce's vision (to see life, to eyewitness great events, to see and be amazed) remains as relevant and thrilling today as it was 75 years ago.

This gallery ― featuring one picture a year from 1936, when the magazine premiered, to 1972, when LIFE ceased publishing as a weekly ― serves as an introduction to, and a celebration of, the treasures of a storied archive: a tightly focused glimpse into the breadth and excellence of one publication's iconic photography.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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