Alfred Stieglitz in 1902 by Gertrude Käsebier
January 1, 1864|
Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||July 13, 1946
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alfred Stieglitz (January 1, 1864 – July 13, 1946) was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form. In addition to his photography, Stieglitz was known for the New York art galleries that he ran in the early part of the 20th century, where he introduced many avant-garde European artists to the U.S. He was married to painter Georgia O'Keeffe.
- 1 Life
- 2 Key Set
- 3 Legacy
- 4 Quotes
- 5 Gallery
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Early years (1864–1890)
Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the first son of German-Jewish immigrants Edward Stieglitz (1833–1909) and Hedwig Ann Werner (1845–1922). His father was a lieutenant in the Union Army. He had five siblings, Flora (1865–1890), twins Julius (1867–1937) and Leopold (1867–1956), Agnes (1869–1952) and Selma (1871–1957). Alfred Stieglitz, seeing the close relationship of the twins, wished he had a soul mate of his own during his childhood.
Stieglitz attended Charlier Institute, a Christian school and the best private school in New York, in 1871. The following year, his family began spending the summers at Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains, a tradition that continued into Stieglitz's adulthood.
So that he would qualify for admission to the City College of New York, Stieglitz was enrolled in a public school for his senior year of high school, but found the education inadequate. In 1881, Edward Stieglitz sold his company for US$400,000 and moved his family to Europe for the next several years so that his children would receive a better education. Alfred Stieglitz enrolled in the Realgymnasium in Karlsruhe. The next year, Stieglitz studied mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin. He enrolled in a chemistry class taught by Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, a scientist and researcher, including the chemical processes for developing photographs. In Vogel, Stieglitz found both the academic challenge he needed and an outlet for his growing artistic and cultural interests. He received an allowance of $1,200 (equivalent to $29,781 in 2016) a month. German artists Adolf von Menzel and Wilhelm Hasemann were his friends. He bought his first camera and traveled through the European countryside, taking photographs of landscapes and peasants in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
In 1884, his parents returned to America, but 20-year-old Stieglitz remained in Germany and collected books on photography and photographers in Europe and the U.S. Through his self-study, he saw photography as an art form. In 1887, he wrote his very first article, "A Word or Two about Amateur Photography in Germany", for the new magazine The Amateur Photographer. He then wrote articles on the technical and aesthetic aspects of photography for magazines in England and Germany.
He won first place for his photography, The Last Joke, Bellagio, in 1887 from Amateur Photographer. The next year he won both first and second prizes in the same competition, and his reputation began to spread as several German and British photographic magazines began publishing his work.
In 1890, his sister Flora died while giving birth, and Alfred Stieglitz returned to New York.
New York and the Camera Club (1891–1901)
Stieglitz considered himself an artist, but he refused to sell his photographs. His father purchased a small photography business for him so that he could earn a living in his chosen profession. Because he demanded high quality images and paid his employee high wages, the Photochrome Engraving Company, rarely made a profit. He regularly wrote for The American Amateur Photographer magazine. He won awards for his photographs at exhibitions, including the joint exhibition of the Boston Camera Club, Photographic Society of Philadelphia and the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York.
In late 1892, Stieglitz bought his first hand-held camera, a Folmer and Schwing 4x5 plate film camera. Prior to this he had been using an 8x10 plate film camera that always required a tripod and was difficult to carry around. He was invigorated by the freedom of the new camera, and later that winter he used the new camera to make two of his best known images, Winter, Fifth Avenue and The Terminal.
Stieglitz gained a reputation for his photography and his magazine articles about how photography is a form of art. In the spring of 1893, he became co-editor of The American Amateur Photographer. In order to avoid the appearance of bias in his opinions and because Photochrome was now printing the photogravures for the magazine, Stieglitz refused to draw a salary. He wrote most of the articles and reviews in the magazine, and was known for both his technical and his critical content.
On 16 November 1893, the 29 year-old Stieglitz married 20 year-old Emmeline Obermeyer, the sister of his close friend and business associate Joe Obermeyer. They were married in New York City. Stieglitz later wrote that he did not love Emmy, as she was commonly known, when they were first married and that their marriage had not been consummated for at least a year. Emmy, daughter of a wealthy brewery owner, had inherited money from her father, a wealthy brewery owner and his father lost a great deal of money in the stock market. He came to regret his decision to marry Emmy, as she did not share his artistic and cultural interests. Stieglitz biographer Richard Whelan summed up their relationship by saying Stieglitz "resented her bitterly for not becoming his twin." Throughout his life Stieglitz was infatuated with younger women.
In early 1894, Stieglitz and his wife took a delayed honeymoon to France, Italy and Switzerland. Stieglitz photographed extensively on the trip, producing some of his early famous images such as A Venetian Canal, The Net Mender and A Wet Day on the Boulevard, Paris. While in Paris, Stieglitz met French photographer Robert Demachy, who became a lifelong correspondent and colleague. He also spent some time in London where he met The Linked Ring founders George Davison and Alfred Horsley Hinton. Both remained friends and colleagues of Stieglitz throughout much of his life.
Later in the year, after his return, Stieglitz was unanimously elected as one of the first two American members of The Linked Ring. Stieglitz saw this recognition as the impetus he needed to step up his cause of promoting artistic photography in the United States. At the time there were two photographic clubs in New York, the Society of Amateur Photographers and the New York Camera Club. Stieglitz resigned from his position at the Photochrome Company and as editor of American Amateur Photographer and spent most of 1895 negotiating a merger of the two clubs.
In May 1896, Stieglitz the two organizations joined to form The Camera Club of New York. Although offered the organization's presidency, he became vice-president. He developed programs for the club and was involved in all aspects of the organization. He told journalist Theodore Dreiser he wanted to "make the club so large, its labors so distinguished and its authority so final that [it] may satisfactorily use its great prestige to compel recognition for the individual artists without and within its walls."
To accomplish this goal Stieglitz proposed to turn the Camera Club's current newsletter into a magazine that would set a new standard for excellence both in the photos it published and in the writing about photography. Due to his vision and enthusiasm, he was given full control over the new publication by the Club's trustees. In July, 1897, the first issue of Camera Notes was published, and it was soon considered the finest photographic magazine in the world. Over the next four years Stieglitz used Camera Notes to champion his belief in photography as an art form by including articles on art and aesthetics next to prints by some of the leading American and European photographers. Critic Sadakichi Hartmann wrote "it seemed to me that artistic photography, the Camera Club and Alfred Stieglitz were only three names for one and the same thing."
He also continued to take his own photographs. Late in 1897, he hand-pulled the photogravures for a first portfolio of his own work, Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies. He continued to exhibit in shows in Europe and the U.S., and by 1898 his gained a solid reputation as a photographer and was paid $75 (equivalent to $2,159 in 2016) for his most favorite print, Winter – Fifth Avenue. Ten of Stieglitz's prints were selected that year for the first Philadelphia Photographic Salon, where he met and then became friends of Gertrude Käsebier and Clarence H. White.
On 27 September 1898, Stieglitz's daughter, Katherine "Kitty", was born. Due to Emmy's inheritance, the couple hired a governess, cook and a chambermaid. Stieglitz worked at the same pace as before the birth of his daughter, as a result, the couple predominantly lived separate lives under the same roof.
In November 1898, a group of photographers in Munich, Germany, mounted an exhibit of their work in conjunction with a show of graphic prints from artists that included Edvard Munch and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. They called themselves the "Secessionists", a term that Stieglitz latched onto for both its artistic and its social meanings. Four years later, he used this same name for a newly formed group of pictorial photographers that he organized in New York.
In May 1899, Stieglitz was given a one-man exhibition, consisting of eighty-seven prints, at the Camera Club. The strain of preparing for this show, coupled with the continuing efforts to produce Camera Notes, took a toll on Stieglitz's health. To lessen his burden he brought in his friends Joseph Keiley and Dallet Fugeut, neither of whom were members of the Camera Club, as associate editors of Camera Notes. Upset by this intrusion from outsiders, not to mention their own diminishing presence in the Club's publication, many of the older members of the Club began to actively campaign against Stieglitz's editorial authority. Stieglitz spent most of 1900 finding ways to outmaneuver these efforts, embroiling him in protracted administrative battles.
One of the few highlights of that year was Stieglitz's introduction to a new photographer, Edward Steichen, at the First Chicago Photographic Salon. Steichen, originally a painter, he brought many of his artistic instincts to photography. The two became inseparable friends and colleagues.
Due to the strain of managing the Camera Club continued, by the following year he collapsed in the first of several mental breakdowns. He spent much of the summer at the family's Lake George home, Oaklawn, recuperating. When he returned to New York he announced his resignation as editor of Camera Notes.
The Photo-Secession and Camera Work (1902–1907)
While Stieglitz was recuperating he had corresponded with photographer Eva Watson-Schütze, who urged him to use his influence to put together an exhibition that would be judged solely by photographers. Until that time all photographic exhibitions had been juried by painters and other types of artists, many of whom knew little about photography and its technical characteristics. Ever since the 1898 Munich exhibit Stieglitz had hoped to create a similar collective of artistically-minded photographers in the U.S., and with Watson-Schütze's urging he felt the time was right to bring a group of his friends together for the purposes of creating an exhibit to be judged solely by photographers. Stieglitz began looking for a location to hold such an exhibit, and in December 1901 he was invited by Charles DeKay of the National Arts Club to put together an exhibition in which Stieglitz would have "full power to follow his own inclinations."
Within two months Stieglitz had assembled a collection of prints from a close circle of his friends, which, in homage to the Munich photographers, he called the Photo-Secession. Stieglitz had full control over the selection of prints for the show, and by putting it together Stieglitz was not only declaring a secession from the general artistic restrictions of the era but specifically from the official oversight of the Camera Club The show opened at the Arts Club in early March 1902, and it was an immediate success. He had achieved his dream of putting together an exhibit judged solely by photographers (in this case, himself), and both the Arts Club members and the public responded with critical acclaim.
Invigorated by positive responses he received, he began formulating a plan for his next big move – to publish a completely independent magazine of pictorial photography to carry forth the same artistic standards of the Photo-Secessionist. By July he had fully resigned as editor of Camera Notes, and one month later he published a prospectus for a new journal he called Camera Work. He was determined it would be "the best and most sumptuous of photographic publications", and from the start it lived up to his ideals. The first issue was printed only four months later, in December 1902, and like all of the subsequent issues it contained beautiful hand-pulled photogravures, critical writings on photography, aesthetics and art, and reviews and commentaries on photographers and exhibitions. While there were many other magazines devoted to photography in the world, Camera Work was "the first photographic journal to be visual in focus."
Stieglitz was a perfectionist, and it showed in every aspect of Camera Work. He advanced the art of photogravure printing by demanding unprecedentedly high standards for the prints in Camera Work. The visual quality of the gravures was so high that when a set of prints failed to arrive for a Photo-Secession exhibition in Brussels, a selection of gravures from the magazine was hung instead. Most viewers assumed they were looking at the original photographs.
Throughout 1903 Stieglitz worked at a feverish pace to publish Camera Work according to his very high standards while pursuing multiple opportunities to exhibit his own work and put together shows of the Photo-Secessionists. He was, without exaggeration, "carrying out three simultaneous functions, all of them effectively", while dealing with the stresses of his home life. Although he brought on the same three associate editors he had at Camera Notes to assist with Camera Work (Dalleft Fuguet, Joseph Keiley and John Francis Strauss), he refused to let the smallest details pass without personally approving them. Later he said that he alone individually wrapped and mailed some 35,000 copies of Camera Work over the course of its publication.
By 1904 Stieglitz was once again mentally and physically exhausted. Badly needing a rest he decided to take his family to Europe in May, but in typical Stieglitz fashion he planned a grueling schedule of exhibitions, meetings and excursions. He collapsed almost upon arrival in Berlin, where he spent more than a month recuperating. He spent much of the rest of 1904 photographing Germany while his family visited their relations there. On his way back to the U. S. Stieglitz stopped in London and held a series of meetings with the leaders of the Linked Ring. He had hoped to convince them to set up a chapter of their organization in America (with Stieglitz as the director), but the membership there feared that Stieglitz would soon become their de facto leader. Before he could change their minds, he once again took ill and had to return to the U.S. without accomplishing his ambition.
He returned to more turmoil among his colleagues, with new factions competing to take on Stieglitz as the primary spokesperson for photography in America. By good fortune, while he was gone his friend Edward Steichen had returned to New York from Paris and was living in a small apartment on Fifth Avenue. He noticed that some rooms across from him were empty and thought they would be an ideal place to exhibit a small number of photographs. At first Stieglitz was not interested, but Steichen convinced him that, like Camera Work, this would be something that Stieglitz alone would control. Within a few months Stieglitz had secured the lease, assembled a collection of photographs and published an announcement about the new exhibition. On 25 November 1905 the "Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession" opened with one hundred prints by thirty-nine photographers. The gallery became an instant success, with almost fifteen thousand visitors during its first season and, more importantly, print sales that totaled nearly $2,800. Work by his friend Steichen accounted for more than half of those sales.
Stieglitz now had four "full-time" jobs at once, not including his family, and as usual he devoted himself to all but his family with seemingly boundless energy. Emmy, who had never given up thinking she would one day earn Stieglitz's love, continued giving him an allowance from her inheritance in spite of his on-going neglect. Her support allowed him to work without having to be overly concerned about financial matters, and through the combination of his jobs he became an even more relentless advocate for photography as an independent art form.
He became convinced that the only way photography would be seen as an equal to the other fine art media was for it to be exhibited and published directly next to painting, sculpture, drawings and prints. He sensed that the public had already embraced artistic photography as a legitimate art form, and that even the Photo-Secession, which he had created, was now a part of the accepted culture. In the October 1906 issue of Camera Work his friend Joseph Keiley summed up these feelings: "Today in America the real battle for which the Photo-Secession was established has been accomplished – the serious recognition of photography as an additional medium of pictorial expression." While many people would have been happy to have realized a goal as significant as this, Stieglitz, always the iconoclast, began looking for something to "rattle this growing complacency."
Two months later an artist named Pamela Colman Smith came into the Little Galleries and asked Stieglitz to look at some of her drawings and watercolors. Just twenty-eight years old to Stieglitz's forty-two, she was relatively unknown when they met. While there is no record of a relationship between them, Stieglitz was undoubted affected by the combination of her youth, her exotic appearance and her unusual art. He decided to show her work because he thought it would be "highly instructive to compare drawings and photographs in order to judge photography's possibilities and limitations". Her show opened in January, 1907, and to Stieglitz's delight it attracted far more visitors to the gallery than any of the previous photography shows. Within a short time nearly every one of her works was sold. Stieglitz, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the show, took photographs of her art work and issued a separate portfolio of his platinum prints of her work. The success of her show marked a turning point between the old era of Stieglitz as revolutionary promoter of photography and new era of Stieglitz as revolutionary promoter of modern art.
The Steerage, 291 and modern art (1907–1917)
In the late spring of 1907 Stieglitz took the unusual step of collaborating on a series of photographic experiments with his friend Clarence H. White. Working with two models, Stieglitz and White took several dozen photographs of their clothed and nude figures. They then printed a small selection using a variety of somewhat unusual techniques, including toning, waxing and drawing on platinum prints. According to Stieglitz, the idea for their experiments came out of a discussion with some painters about "the impossibility of the camera to do certain things." The photographs they took together remain some of the most unusual and distinctive of his whole career.
While he was enjoying significant artistic successes, Stieglitz had no similar fortune on the financial end of his work. Most months the Little Galleries cost far more to operate than the meager income from print sales, membership in the Photo-Secession was declining and even subscriptions to Camera Work began to drop off. The total income from all of these efforts now amounted to less than $400 for the whole year, forcing Stieglitz – in this case, Emmy – to make up the rest. For years Emmy had maintained a lifestyle that was relatively extravagant for their income level. She employed a full-time governess for Kitty, insisting on traveling to Europe at least once a year, and stayed only at the best hotels. In spite of her father's concerns about his growing financial problems she insisted that the family once again travel to Europe for the summer, and in June Stieglitz, Emmy, Kitty and their governess once again sailed across the Atlantic.
While on his way to Europe Stieglitz took what is recognized not only as his signature image but also as one of the most important photographs of the 20th century. Aiming his camera at the lower class passengers in the bow of the ship, he captured a scene he titled The Steerage. When he arrived in Paris he developed the image in a borrowed darkroom and carried the glass plate around with him in Europe for four months. By the time he returned to New York he was so caught up in other business that he set it aside and did not publish or exhibit it until four years later.
While in Europe Stieglitz saw the first commercial demonstration of the Autochrome Lumière color photography process, and soon he was experimenting with it in Paris with Steichen, Frank Eugene and Alvin Langdon Coburn. He took three of Steichen's Autochromes with him to Munich in order to have four-color reproductions made for insertion into a future issue of Camera Work.
Back again in New York, Stieglitz had to deal with multiple problems at once. First, he received a notice requesting his resignation from the Camera Club. Since he had left the Club its membership had plummeted, and it was nearly bankrupt. The Trustees blamed Stieglitz for their problems. Stieglitz ignored their request, and after more than forty members resigned in protest of the Trustee's actions he was reinstated as a life member. Then, just after he presented a groundbreaking show of Auguste Rodin's drawings, his own financial problems forced him to close the Little Galleries for a brief period. He reopened the gallery in February 1908 under the new name "291".
The name change represented a clear break from the old way of thinking about photography and especially about the Photo-Secession, and from then on the gallery broke down all boundaries between traditional art (paintings, sculptures and drawings) and photography. Stieglitz deliberately interspersed exhibitions of what he knew would be controversial art, such as Rodin's sexually explicit drawings, with what Steichen called "understandable art" and with photographs. The intention was to "set up a dialogue that would enable 291 visitors to see, discuss and ponder the differences and similarities between artists of all ranks and types: between painters, draftsmen, sculptors and photographers; between European and American artists; between older or more established figures and younger, newer practitioners."
During this same period the National Arts Club mounted a "Special Exhibition of Contemporary Art" that included photographs by Stieglitz, Steichen, Käsebier and White along with paintings by Mary Cassatt, William Glackens, Robert Henri, James McNeill Whistler and others. This is thought to have been the first major show in the U.S. in which photographers were given equal ranking with painters.
For most of 1908 and 1909 Stieglitz was so wrapped up in creating shows at 291 and in publishing Camera Work that he apparently completely neglected his own photography. If he did take any photographs during this period he did not consider them worthy of his standards, and none appear in the definitive catalog of his work, Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set.
In May 1909 Stieglitz’s father Edward died, and in his will he left his son the then significant sum of $10,000. Stieglitz was temporarily relieved of his financial stresses, and he used this new infusion of cash to keep his gallery and Camera Work in business for the next several years.
During this period Stieglitz met Marius de Zayas, an energetic and charismatic artist from Mexico, and soon de Zayas became one of his closest colleagues, assisting both with shows at the gallery and with introducing Stieglitz to new artists in Europe. As Stieglitz’s reputation as a promoter of European modern art increased, he soon was approached by several new American artists hoping to have their works shown. Stieglitz was intrigued by their modern vision, within months Alfred Maurer, John Marin and Marsden Hartley all had their works hanging on the walls of 291.
In 1910, Stieglitz was invited by the director of the Albright Art Gallery to organize a major show of the best of contemporary photography. Although an announcement of an open competition for the show was printed in Camera Work, the fact that Stieglitz would be in charge of it generated a new round of attacks against him. An editorial in American Photography magazine claimed that Stieglitz could no longer "perceive the value of photographic work of artistic merit which does not conform to a particular style which is so characteristic of all exhibitions under his auspices. Half a generation ago this school [the Photo-Secession] was progressive, and far in advance of its time. Today it is not progressing, but is a reactionary force of the most dangerous type."
Stieglitz took the attacks as the equivalent of a challenge to a duel, and he was determined to silence his critics once and for all. He wrote to fellow photographer George Seeley "The reputation, not only of the Photo-Secession, but of photography is at stake, and I intend to muster all the forces available to win out for us." He spent all summer reviewing and assembling a huge collection of entries, and when the exhibition opened in October more than six hundred photographs lined the walls. Critics generally praised the beautiful aesthetic and technical qualities of the works, and overall the show was deemed a complete success. However, his critics were mostly proven right: the vast majority of the prints in the show were from the same photographers Stieglitz had known for years and whose works he had exhibited at 291. More than five hundred of the prints came from only thirty-seven photographers, including Steichen, Coburn, Seeley, White, F. Holland Day, and Stieglitz himself. The exhibition was a great tribute to the Photo-Secession, but by its very size and scope it also indicated that the Photo-Secession had become a part of the very same cultural establishment that Stieglitz had once fought so hard against.
In the January 1911 edition of Camera Work Stieglitz took the unusual step of reprinting the entire text of a review of the Buffalo show that included some disparaging words about White's photos. White was outraged that his friend would provide a forum for such criticism, and he never forgave Stieglitz. Within a year he and Käsebier, who was also attacked in the same issue, completely ended their friendship with Stieglitz. White soon started his own school of photography, and Käsebier went on to co-found with White a group called the "Pictorial Photographers of America".
Throughout 1911 and early 1912 Stieglitz continued organizing ground-breaking exhibits of modern art at 291 and promoting new art along with photography in the pages of Camera Work. By the summer of 1912 he was so enthralled with non-photographic art that he published a special number of Camera Work (August 1912) devoted solely to Matisse and Picasso. This was the first issue of the journal that did not contain a single photograph, and it was a clear indicator of his interests during this period.
In late 1912 painters Walter Pach, Arthur B. Davies and Walt Kuhn began organizing a great show of modern art, and Davies asked Stieglitz to help. Stieglitz, who strongly disliked Kuhn, declined to become involved, but he agreed to lend both a few modern art pieces from 291 to the show. He also agreed to be listed as an honorary vice-president of the exhibition along with Claude Monet, Odilon Redon, Mabel Dodge and Isabella Stewart Gardner. In February 1913 the watershed Armory Show opened in New York, and soon modern art was a major topic of discussion throughout the city. Stieglitz took great satisfaction in the public's response, although much of it was not favorable, but he saw the popularity of the show as a vindication of the work that he had been sponsoring at 291 for the past five years. Ever the promoter and provocateur, he quickly mounted an exhibition of his own photographs at 291 to run while the Armory Show was in place. He later wrote that allowing people to see both photographs and modern paintings at the same time "afforded the best opportunity to the student and public for a clearer understanding of the place and purpose of the two media."
The year 1914 was extremely challenging for Stieglitz. In January his closest friend and co-worker Joseph Keiley died. The normally stoic Stieglitz was distraught for many weeks. The outbreak of World War I troubled him in several ways: first, he had family and friends in Germany and was concerned about their safety; secondly, for many years the photogravures for Camera Work had been printed in Germany and now he had to find another printing firm; and finally the war caused a significant downturn in the American economy. Suddenly art became a luxury for many people, and by the end of the year Stieglitz was struggling to keep both 291 and Camera Work alive. He published the April issue of Camera Work in October, but it would be more than a year before he had the time and resources to publish the next issue.
In the meantime Stieglitz's friends de Zayas, Paul de Haviland, and Agnes Meyer convinced him that the solution to his problems was to take on a totally new project , something that would re-engage him in his interests. Soon he began publishing a new journal, which he called 291 after his gallery. It was a complete labor of love and intended to be the very epitome of avant-garde culture. Like many of Stieglitz's efforts, it was an aesthetic triumph and a financial disaster. It ceased publication after twelve issues.
During this period Stieglitz became increasingly intrigued with a more modern visual aesthetics for photography. He had won his long battle to achieve artistic recognition for pictorial photography, but as he became aware of what was going on in avant-garde painting and sculpture he found that pictorialism no longer represented the future – it was the past. He was influenced in part by painter Charles Sheeler and by photographer Paul Strand. In 1915, Strand, who had been coming to see shows at 291 for many years, introduced Stieglitz to a new photographic vision that was embodied by the bold lines of everyday forms. Stieglitz was one of the first to see the beauty and grace of Strand's style, and he gave Strand a major exhibit at 291. He also devoted almost the entire last issue of Camera Work to his photographs.
In January 1916, Stieglitz was shown a portfolio of charcoal drawings by a young artist named Georgia O'Keeffe. Stieglitz was so taken by her art that without meeting O'Keeffe or even getting her permission to show her works he made plans to exhibit her work at 291. The first that O'Keeffe heard about any of this was from another friend who saw her drawings in the gallery in late May of that year. She finally met Stieglitz after going to 291 and chastising him for showing her work without her permission. Stieglitz was immediately attracted to her both physically and artistically. O’Keeffe did not immediately return the interest.
Soon thereafter O’Keeffe met Paul Strand, and her physical and artistic attraction focused on him. She then returned to her home in Texas, and for several months she and Strand exchanged increasingly romantic letters. When Strand told his friend Stieglitz about his new yearning, Stieglitz responded by telling Strand about his own infatuation with O’Keeffe. Gradually Strand’s interest waned, and Stieglitz’s escalated. By the summer of 1917 he and O’Keeffe were writing each other "their most private and complicated thoughts", and it was clear that something very intense was developing.
The year 1917 marked the end of an era in Stieglitz's life and the beginning of another. In part because of changing aesthetics, the changing times brought on by the war and because of his growing relationship with O'Keeffe, he no longer had the interest or the resources to continue what he had been doing for the past decade. Within the period of a few months, he disbanded what was left of the Photo-Secession, ceased publishing Camera Work and closed the doors of 291. It was also clear to him that his marriage to Emmy was over. He had finally found "his twin", and nothing would stand in his way of the relationship he had wanted all of his life.
O'Keeffe and modern art (1918–1924)
During the previous eighteen months Stieglitz and O'Keeffe had been writing to each other with increasing passion and seeing each other whenever possible (she was living in Texas for most of this time). In early June, O'Keeffe moved to New York after Stieglitz promised he would provide her with a quiet studio where she could paint. They were inseparable from the moment she arrived, and within a month he took the first of many nude photographs of her. He chose to do this at his family's apartment while his wife Emmy was away, but she returned while their session was still in progress. She had suspected something was going on between Stieglitz and O'Keeffe for a while, but his audacity in bringing her to their home both confirmed her fears and naturally outraged her. She told him to stop seeing her or get out. Stieglitz, who some believe had set up the entire situation in order to provoke the confrontation, did not hesitate; he left and immediately found a place in the city where he and O'Keeffe could live together. Uncertain about what this new freedom meant for their relationship, they slept separately for more than two weeks. By the end of July they were in the same bed together, and by mid-August when they visited Oaklawn "they were like two teenagers in love. Several times a day they would run up the stairs to their bedroom, so eager to make love that they would start taking their clothes off as they ran."
Stieglitz filed for divorce almost immediately, but once he was out of their apartment Emmy had a change of heart. Due to the legal delays caused by Emmy and her brothers, it would be six more years before the divorce was finalized. During this period Stieglitz and O'Keeffe continued to live together most of the time, although she would go off on her own from time to time. She was relatively free-spirited and out-going with Stieglitz and his friends, but she needed solitude for weeks or months at a time when she focused on painting or creating. This arrangement worked well with Stieglitz's own lifestyle, and he used the times when she was away to concentrate on his photography and on his continued promotion of modern art.
One of the most important things that O'Keeffe provided for Stieglitz was the muse he had always wanted. He photographed O'Keeffe obsessively between 1918 and 1925 in what was the most prolific period in his entire life. During this period he produced more than 350 mounted prints of O'Keeffe that portrayed a wide range of her character, moods and beauty. He shot many close-up studies of parts of her body, especially her hands either isolated by themselves or near her face or hair. The strength of these photos is that, as O'Keeffe biographer Roxanna Robinson points out, her "personality was crucial to these photographs; it was this, as much as her body, that Stieglitz was recording." They remain one of the most dynamic and intimate records of a single individual in the history of art.
In 1920 Stieglitz was invited by Mitchell Kennerly of the Anderson Galleries in New York to put together a major exhibition of his photographs. He spent much of that year mounting recent works, and in early 1921 he hung the first one-man exhibit of his photographs since 1913. Of the 146 prints he put on view, only seventeen had been seen before. Forty-six were of O'Keeffe, including many nudes, and by agreement with O'Keeffe she was not identified as the model on any of the prints. It was in the catalog for this show that Stieglitz made his famous declaration: "I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for Truth my obsession." What is less known is that he conditioned this statement by following it with these words:
- "PLEASE NOTE: In the above STATEMENT the following, fast becoming "obsolete", terms do not appear: ART, SCIENCE, BEAUTY, RELIGION, every ISM, ABSTRACTION, FORM, PLASTICITY, OBJECTIVITY, SUBJECTIVITY, OLD MASTERS, MODERN ART, PSYCHOANALYSIS, AESTHETICS, PICTORIAL PHOTOGRAPHY, DEMOCRACY, CEZANNE, "291", PROHIBITION. The term TRUTH did creep in but it may be kicked out by any one." 
This statement symbolized the dichotomy that Stieglitz embodied. On one hand he was the absolute perfectionist who photographed the same scene over and over until he was satisfied and then used only the finest papers and printing techniques to bring in the image to completion; on the other he completely disdained any attempt to apply artistic terminology to his work, for it would always be that – "work" created from the heart and not "art" created by academicians and others who had to be "trained" to see the beauty in front of them.
In 1922 Stieglitz organized a large show of John Marin's paintings and etching at the Anderson Galleries, followed by a huge auction of nearly two hundred paintings by more than forty American artists, including O'Keeffe. Energized by this activity, he began one of his most creative and unusual undertakings – photographing a series of cloud studies simply for their form and beauty. He said:
- "I wanted to photograph clouds to find out what I had learned in forty years about photography. Through clouds to put down my philosophy of life – to show that (the success of) my photographs (was) not due to subject matter – not to special trees or faces, or interiors, to special privileges – clouds were there for everyone…"
By late summer he had created a series he called "Music – A Sequence of Ten Cloud Photographs". Over the next twelve years he would take hundreds of photographs of clouds without any reference points of location or direction. These are generally recognized as the first intentionally abstract photographs, and they remain some of his most powerful photographs. He would come refer to these photographs as Equivalents.
Stieglitz's mother Hedwig died in November 1922, and as he did with his father he buried his grief in his work. He spent time with Paul Strand and his new wife Rebecca (Beck), reviewed the work of another newcomer named Edward Weston and began organizing a new show of O'Keeffe's work. Her show opened in early 1923, and Stieglitz spent much of the spring marketing her work. Eventually twenty of her paintings sold for more than $3,000. In the summer O'Keeffe once again took off for the seclusion of the Southwest, and for a while Stieglitz was alone with Beck Strand at Lake George. He took a series of nude photos of her, and soon he became infatuated with her. They had a brief physical affair before O'Keeffe returned in the fall. O'Keeffe could tell what had happened, but since she did not see Stieglitz's new lover as a serious threat to their relationship she let things pass. Six years later she would have her own affair with Beck Strand in New Mexico.
In 1924 Stieglitz's divorce was finally approved by a judge, and within four months he and O'Keeffe married. It was a small, private ceremony at Marin's house, and afterward the couple went back home. There was no reception, festivities or honeymoon. O'Keeffe said later that they married in order to help soothe the troubles of Stieglitz's daughter Kitty, who at that time was being treated in a sanatorium for depression and hallucinations. The marriage did not seem to have any immediate effect on either Stieglitz or O'Keeffe; they both continued working on their individual projects as they had before. For the rest of their lives together, their relationship was, as biographer Benita Eisler characterized it, "a collusion ... a system of deals and trade-offs, tacitly agreed to and carried out, for the most part, without the exchange of a word. Preferring avoidance to confrontation on most issues, O'Keeffe was the principal agent of collusion in their union."
In the coming years O'Keeffe would spend much of her time painting in New Mexico, while Stieglitz rarely left New York except for summers at Lake George. O'Keeffe later said "Stieglitz was a hypochondriac and couldn't be more than 50 miles from a doctor."
At the end of 1924 the Boston Museum of Fine Arts acquired a collection of twenty-seven of Stieglitz's photographs. This was the first time a major museum included photographs in its permanent collection. Stieglitz donated the photos in order to have complete control over which images would go into the collection.
The Intimate Gallery and An American Place (1925–1937)
In 1925 Stieglitz was invited by the Anderson Galleries to put together one of the largest exhibitions of American art that had ever been organized, and he responded with his typical exuberance and showmanship. The title of the show says more than any summary can offer: Alfred Stieglitz Presents Seven Americans: 159 Paintings, Photographs, and Things, Recent and Never Before Publicly Shown by Arthur G. Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Charles Demuth, Paul Strand, Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The show ran for three weeks and was very well attended, but when it was over only one small painting by O'Keeffe had sold out of all the works on exhibit.
Soon after Stieglitz was offered the continued use of one of the rooms at the Anderson Galleries, and he decided it would be just the right space for a series of exhibitions by some of the same artists in the Seven Americans show. In December 1925 he opened his new gallery, publicly called "The Intimate Gallery" but referred to by Stieglitz as "The Room" because of its small size. Over the next four years he put together sixteen shows of works by Marin, Dove, Hartley, O'Keeffe and Strand, along with individual exhibits by Gaston Lachaise, Oscar Bluemner and Francis Picabia. During this time Stieglitz cultivated a relationship with influential new art collector Duncan Phillips, who purchased several works through The Intimate Gallery.
In 1927 a young woman named Dorothy Norman came to the gallery to look at works by Marin, and once again Stieglitz became infatuated with a much younger woman. She began volunteering for mundane tasks at the gallery, and soon she found she was returning Stieglitz's attention. By the next year, when Stieglitz was sixty-four and she twenty-two, they both declared their love for each other. At this stage it was mostly an intellectual attraction – Norman was married and had a child – but she came to the gallery almost every day and did Stieglitz's bidding without complaints.
For most of the past year O'Keeffe had been dealing with bouts of illness or secluded at Lake George painting, and she and Stieglitz had seen each other only intermittently. She knew of her husband's interest in Norman but thought it was just another of his infatuations. Having struggled with artistic roadblocks for many months she felt she needed a major change of some sort, so when Mabel Dodge invited her to come to Santa Fe for the summer O'Keeffe told Stieglitz that she had to go in order to be able to create again. Stieglitz took advantage of her time away to begin photographing Norman, and he began teaching her the technical aspects of printing as well. When Norman had a second child she missed only about two months before returning to the gallery on a regular basis. Within a short time they became lovers, but even after their physical affair diminished a few years later they continued to work together whenever O'Keeffe was not around until Stieglitz died in 1946.
In early 1929 Stieglitz was told that the building that housed the Room would be torn down later in the year. Once again he would be without a gallery to carry out his ambitions. After a last show of Demuth's work in May he retreated to Lake George for the summer, once again exhausted and depressed. Without his knowledge his friends the Strands began to raise funds for a new gallery, knowing such a project would re-energize their old friend. In spite of terrible economy at the time they succeeded in raising nearly sixteen thousand dollars and even found a place that was ready to be occupied. When they surprised Stieglitz with their gift he reacted with harsh ingratitude, saying it was time for "young ones" to do some of the work he had been shouldering for so many years. The Strands were indignant, and although Stieglitz eventually apologized and accepted their generosity the incident marked the beginning of the end of their long and close relationship.
In the late fall Stieglitz returned to New York and set about establishing his new domain. Not only was it the largest gallery he had ever managed, it provided a space for his first darkroom in the city. Previously he had borrowed other darkrooms or worked only when he was at Lake George. On 15 December, two weeks after his sixty-fifth birthday, Stieglitz opened his new gallery, An American Place (soon known only as "The Place"). He continued showing group or individual shows of his friends Marin, Demuth, Hartley, Dove and Strand for the next sixteen years, but O'Keeffe received at least one major exhibition each year. He fiercely controlled access to her works and incessantly promoted her even when critics gave her less than favorable reviews. Often during this time they would only see each other during the summer, when it was too hot in her New Mexico home, but they wrote to each other almost weekly with the fervor of soul mates.
In 1932 Stieglitz mounted a forty-year retrospective of one hundred twenty-seven of his works at The Place. He included all of his most famous photographs, but he also purposely chose to include recent photos of O'Keeffe, who, because of her years in the Southwest sun, looked older than her forty-five years, next to portraits of his young lover Norman. It was one of the few times he acted spitefully to O'Keeffe in public, and it might have been as a result of their increasingly intense arguments in private about his control over her art.
Later that year he mounted a show of O'Keeffe's works next to some amateurish paintings on glass by Beck Strand. He didn't bother to put together a catalog of the show, and it was clear to the Strands that he intended it as an insult to his ex-lover. Paul Strand never forgave Stieglitz. He said "The day I walked into the Photo-Secession 291 [sic] in 1907 was a great moment in my life… but the day I walked out of An American Place in 1932 was not less good. It was fresh air and personal liberation from something that had become, for me at least, second-rate, corrupt and meaningless."
In 1936 Stieglitz returned briefly to his photographic roots by mounting one of the first exhibitions of photos by Ansel Adams in New York City. The show was successful and David McAlpin bought eight Adams photos. He also put on one of the first shows of Eliot Porter's work two years later. He encouraged younger photographer Todd Webb to develop his own style and immerse himself in the medium; Stieglitz was considered at the time to have been the "godfather of modern photography".
The next year the Cleveland Museum of Art mounted the first major exhibition of Stieglitz's work outside of his own galleries. He spent many hours laboring over the choices and making sure that each print was perfect, and once again he worked himself into exhaustion. O'Keeffe spent most of the year in New Mexico.
Last years (1938–1946)
In early 1938, Stieglitz suffered a serious heart attack, one of six coronary or angina attacks that would strike him over the next eight years. Each would leave him increasingly weakened, and his recovery times would lengthen after each one. Still, as soon as he was strong enough he would return to The Place and pick up where he left off. In his absence, Dorothy Norman managed the gallery. Stieglitz would often sleep on a small cot at the gallery, either too weak to leave or not wanting to return to his usually empty home. O'Keeffe remained in her Southwest home from spring to fall of this period.
In the summer of 1946 Stieglitz suffered a fatal stroke. He remained in a coma long enough for O'Keeffe to finally return home. When she got to his hospital room Dorothy Norman was there with him. She left immediately, and O'Keeffe was with him when he died. According to his wishes, a simple funeral was held with only twenty of his closest friends and family in attendance. Stieglitz was cremated, and O'Keeffe and his niece Elizabeth Davidson took his ashes to Lake George. O'Keeffe never revealed exactly where she distributed them, saying only "I put him where he could hear the water."
The day after the funeral, O'Keeffe called Norman to demand "absolute control" over An American Place. She told Norman to clear all of her things out of the gallery, and ended by saying that she considered Dorothy Norman's relationship with Stieglitz to be "absolutely disgusting."
During the course of his long career, Stieglitz produced more than 2,500 mounted photographs. After his death O’Keeffe committed to assembling the best and most complete set of his photographs, selecting in most cases what she considered to be only the finest print of each image he made. In some cases she included slightly different versions of the same image, and these series are invaluable for their insights about Stieglitz's aesthetic composition. She chose only those prints that Stieglitz had personally mounted, since he did not consider a work to be finished until he completed this step. In 1949 she donated the first part of what she called the "key set" of 1,317 Stieglitz photographs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. In 1980 she added to the set another 325 photographs taken by Stieglitz of her, including many nudes. Now numbering 1,642 photographs, it is the largest, most complete collection of Stieglitz's work anywhere in the world. In 2002 the National Gallery published a two-volume, 1,012-page catalog that reproduced the complete key set along with detailed annotations about each photograph.
- "Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) is perhaps the most important figure in the history of visual arts in America. That is certainly not to say that he was the greatest artist America has ever produced. Rather, through his many roles – as a photographer, as a discoverer and promoter of photographers and of artists in other media, and as a publisher, patron, and collector – he had a greater impact on American art than any other person has had." 
- "Alfred Stieglitz had the multifold abilities of a Renaissance man. A visionary of enormously wide perspective, his accomplishments were remarkable, his dedication awe-inspiring. A photographer of genius, a publisher of inspiration, a writer of great ability, a gallery owner and exhibition organizer of both photographic and modern art exhibitions, a catalyst and a charismatic leader in the photographic and art worlds for over thirty years, he was, necessarily, a passionate, complex, driven and highly contradictory character, both prophet and martyr. The ultimate maverick, he inspired great love and great hatred in equal measure."
- Eight of the nine highest prices ever paid at auction for Stieglitz photographs (as of 2008) are images of Georgia O'Keeffe. The highest-priced photograph, a 1919 palladium print of Georgia O'Keeffe (Hands), realized US$1.47 million at auction in February 2006. At the same sale, Georgia O'Keeffe Nude, another 1919 print by Stieglitz, sold for $1.36 million.
- "Photography is a fad well-nigh on its last legs, thanks principally to the bicycle craze."
- "I have always been a great believer in today. Most people live either in the past or in the future, so that they really never live at all. So many people are busy worrying about the future of art or society, they have no time to preserve what is. Utopia is in the moment. Not in some future time, some other place, but in the here and now, or else it is nowhere."
- "Nearly right is child's play."
- "Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings… You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the art galleries of today."
- Richard Whelan (1995). Alfred Stieglitz: A Biography. NY: Little, Brown. pp. 11–22, 214, 281, 382, 400.
- Hunter Drohojowska-Philp (2004). Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe. W.W. Norton. p. 54–57. ISBN 978-0-393-05853-6.
- Katherine Hoffman (2004). Stieglitz: A Beginning Light. New Haven: Yale University Press Studio. pp. 55–65, 122–140, 213–222.
- Weston Naef (1978). The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 16–48.
- Alfred Stieglitz (February 1887). "A or Two about Amateur Photography in Germany". The Amateur Photographer (5): 96–97.
- Sue Davidson Lowe (1983). Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux. pp. 19, 22–35, 181–200, 348–366.
- Theodore Dreiser (October 1899). "The Camera Club of New York". Ainslee's.
- Christian A. Peterson (1993). Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Notes. NY: Norton. pp. 9–60.
- Sadakichi Hartmann (February 1900). "The New York Camera Club". Photographic Times: 59.
- Alfred Stieglitz (1897). Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies. NY: R. H. Russell.
- William Innes Homer (2002). Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession 1902. NY:Viking Studio. pp. 22, 24–25.
- Alfred Stieglitz (April 1902). "Exhibitions". Camera Notes: 5.
- Robert Doty (1960). Photo-Secession: Photography as Fine Art. Rochester, NY; George Eastman House. p. 43.
- Camera Work: The Complete Photographs 1903-1917. Taschen. 2008. pp. 7, 16–18, 31–32.
- Sarah Greenough (2000). Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries. Washington: National Gallery of Art. pp. 26–53.
- Joseph Keiley (October 1906). "The Photo-Secession Exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts". Camera Work: 15.
- Weber, Eva (1994). Alfred Stieglitz. Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books Corporation. pp. 6 (introduction). ISBN 0-517-10332-X.
- Sarah Greenough (2002). Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set. NY: Abrams. pp. xi–xlix, 31, 558.
- Frank Fraprie (August 1910). "untitled editorial". American Photography: 476.
- Ted Eversole. "Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work and the Early Cultivation of American Modernism" (PDF). p. 13. Retrieved 2008-12-08.
- Alfred Stieglitz (June 1913). "Notes on '291'". Camera Work: 3.
- Roaxnna Robinson (1989). Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. NY: Harper. pp. 195–96, 278–279.
- Dorothy Norman (1973). Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer. NY: Random House. pp. 142, 225.
- Alfred Stieglitz (19 September 1923). "How I came to Photograph Clouds". Amateur Photographer and Photography: 255.
- Eisler, Benita (1991). O'Keeffe and Stieglitz: An American Romance. NY: Doubleday. pp. 380–392, 428–429, 478, 493.
- "Bringing Modernism to Cyberspace". Art News. 108 (1): 38. January 2009.
- Gray, Andrea (1982). Ansel Adams: An American Place, 1936. Tucson: Center for Creative Photography.
- staff writer (2010). "Todd Webb (1905-2000)". Luxury Bazaar. Retrieved 2010-10-12.
Webb soon developed his own unique style of photographing and was further encouraged by Alfred Stieglitz, the often considered "Godfather of modern photography," to immerse himself in the medium.
- Whelan, Richard (2000). Stieglitz on Photography: His Selected Essays and Notes. NY: Aperture. p. ix.
- Photograph sale breaks world record Archived February 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Alfred Stieglitz (1897). American Annual of Photography: 56.
- Alfred Stieglitz (March 14, 1922). "Is Photography a Failure?". New York Sun: 5.
- Hostetler, Lisa. “Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) and American Photography.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)
- Voorhies, James. “Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) and His Circle.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)
- Weston Naef (General Editor) (1995), Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Publications.
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- PBS website on Stieglitz
- Circle’s Edge, a project to index manuscripts associated with Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and Paul Strand.
- Alfred Stieglitz/Georgia O'Keeffe Archive at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University
- The Art of the Photogravure: Key Figures
- "Stieglitz portraits of Georgia O'Keeffe". Photography. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
- The two most costly Stieglitz photos, 2006
- Katherine Hoffman, "Alfred Stieglitz: A Legacy of Light",(Yale University Press, 2011), ISBN 0-300-13445-2
- Autochromes by Alfred Stieglitz from Mark Jacobs Collection
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