Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Alfred Stieglitz

Gertrude Käsebier, Alfred Stieglitz, 1902

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was most influential in establishing photography as an art form in the United States. He pursued this cause by editing and publishing magazines, organizing photographers, operating galleries and crafting his own creative photographic images many of which were printed in photogravure. Stieglitz used the photogravure process for most of the illustrations in his groundbreaking periodicals, Camera Notes (1897-1903) and Camera Work (1903-1917). The photogravures in these journals, all personally approved by Stieglitz, enabled a larger audience for once to experience the artful qualities of photography. 

 Anonymous, Alfred Stieglitz Photographing on a Bridge, c. 1905

Stieglitz was so confident of the quality of his gravures that he occasionally sent them to be displayed at international exhibitions of artistic photographs. Stieglitz's work passed through three distinct phases. He began as a naturalist photographer sensitively portraying rural lifestyles. He then became a pictorialist, creating impressionistic pictures through soft-focus effects. Finally, he turned modern, embracing abstraction, photographic detail, and realistic tones. 

 Alfred Stieglitz, The Terminal, Camera Work XXXVI, 1892

Alfred Stieglitz, Winter - Fifth Avenue, Camera Work XII, 1905

 Alfred Stieglitz, A Derigible, Camera Work XXXVI, 1910

 Alfred Stieglitz, From the Window of 291, 1915

Around 1915, Stieglitz began photographing the view out of the window of his gallery, a practice he continued through two relocations of his business. In this photograph made from the window of Stieglitz's first gallery (known as "291" for its address on Fifth Avenue), the legacy of Pictorialism hovers in the rich, evocative atmosphere he coaxes from the nighttime scene.

Alfred Stieglitz, From the Back Window, 291, 1915

And New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban night is like the night there ... Squares after squares of flame, set up and cut into the aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will. (Ezra Pound)

 Francis Picabia, Here, This Is Stieglitz Here, 1915

Francis Picabia created Here, This Is Stieglitz Here (Ici, c'est ici Stieglitz) in 1915, after having relocated to New York from Paris earlier that year. While in New York, the painter met Alfred Stieglitz, who would later organize an exhibition of Picabia's works at his legendary gallery 291 and collaborate with him on the Dada publication 291 in which Here first appeared.

 Alfred Stieglitz, Ellen Koeniger, Lake George, 1916

 Alfred Stieglitz, Untitled, Camera Work, Nos. 49–50, 1917

 Alfred Stieglitz, Spiritual America, 1923

 Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1918

Stieglitz's famous photographic cycle of O'Keeffe began in 1917 when she was thirty years old and he was fifty-three, and ended in 1937 when ill-health caused Stieglitz to put down his heavy camera. In over 300 black-and-white photographs Stieglitz revealed O'Keeffe's strengths and vulnerabilities. He and O'Keeffe married in 1924.

 Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, squeezing breasts, 1918

Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1931

 Georgia O'Keeffe, From the Faraway, Nearby, 1938

 The Figure 5 in Gold is one of a series of eight abstract portraits of friends that Charles Demuth made between 1924 and 1929, which were exhibited at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery 291. This particular painting pays homage to a poem by William Carlos Williams:

The Great Figure
by William Carlos Williams

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city

Alfred Stieglitz, Looking Northwest from the Shelton, 1932

"Crammed on the narrow island the million-windowed buildings will jut glittering, pyramid on pyramid..."  (John Dos Passos)

Alfred Stieglitz, Portrait of Marsden Hartley, 1913

In 1909, Marsden Hartley was introduced to Alfred Stieglitz, a meeting that would place him firmly within the progressive art circles of the time.  Stieglitz immediately arranged a one-man exhibition for Hartley at his gallery 291. Beginning in 1912, Stieglitz financed several European excursions for Hartley.  

Marsden Hartley, Portrait of a German Officer, 1914

Alfred Stieglitz, Rebecca Strand, 1923 

Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1933

 Alfred Stieglitz, Equivalent, 1926



  1. You have some fantastic early photos that I didn't have in my article, nor have I seen them published elsewhere. Many thanks for the link

  2. "Hack, hack, hack. I wouldn't pay twenty-five cents to spit on a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. And I think she's a horrible person, too. I know her...So arrogant, so sure of herself. I'm sure she's carrying a dildo in her purse."
    — Truman Capote (Conversations with Capote)

  3. Great post... and love the Truman Capote quote in the second comment, it is how to say... so Capotish, totally fitting the spirit of the author of In Cold Blood, makes me loves Georgia O'Keeffe even more ;)