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Alfred Stieglitz

American photographer Alfred Stieglitz was considered by his peers to be one of the most important promoters of art during his time. In addition to his own work, for which he used the natural elements of his subjects such as steam, rain and snow to achieve his desired effect of making his photographs artistic, he also discovered and promoted other photographers and artists.

Alfred Stieglitz
Photographer Alfred Stieglitz

Stieglitz was also famous for his affair and eventual marriage to painter Georgia O'Keeffe, of whom he had taken many photographs in the nude. He was also instrumental in promoting O'Keeffe's work.

Stieglitz was born January 1, 1864 in Hoboken, New Jersey. His family moved to Germany 1881, where Stieglitz studied mechanical engineering in Berlin at Technische Hochschule. There, he was artistically and culturally influenced by scientist and photography researcher Hermann Wilhelm Vogel. The German artists Wilhelm Hasemann and Adolf von Menzel who introduced Stieglitz to the idea of nature directly influencing art.

Stieglitz bought a camera and began traveling throughout Europe, photographing the countryside and its people. He also started writing, and in 1887 wrote, "A Word or Two about Amateur Photography in Germany." At this time, he won first place for his photo, 'The Last Joke, Bellagio," for a contest by the British magazine Amateur Photographer. Soon his work was being published in British and German magazines.

After his sister Flora's death in 1890 he returned to New York to be with his family, who had moved back in 1884.

Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
In New York, with his father's financial help, he started the Photochrome Engraving Company, and continued to write for art publications as well as win several awards for his photography, including at the exhibition put on by the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York, Photographic Society of Philadelphia and the Boston Camera Club.

He soon became famous for his work, and in 1893 he accepted a co-editing position for The American Amateur Photographer magazine. Two of his most well known photographs, "Winter, Fifth Avenue" and "The Terminal," were taken with a 4x5 plate film camera made by Folmer and Schwing.

His marriage in 1893 to Emmeline Obermeyer, who was nine years younger than Stieglitz, ended when she found out about his affair with O'Keeffe, whom he met in 1916.

Through a group known as the Linked Ring, Stieglitz continued to promote photography as an art. In 1896 he achieved his goal of merging the Society of Amateur Photographers and the New York Camera Club into one club, the Camera Club of New York.

He continued his own photography, creating the portfolio, "Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies," and exhibiting his work in Europe and the U.S.

With the Photo-Secession exhibition in 1902, inspired by a Munich artists group that included Edvard Munch and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and with the journal, Camera Work, Stieglitz broke from the authority of the Camera Club.

However, the strains of his work caused him to collapse from exhaustion, which soon became a recurring theme.

Alfred Stieglitz Wet Day

In 1907, Stieglitz's successful campaign of artist Pamela Coleman Smith caused his launch into the promotion of modern art. The same year, on his way to Europe, he took a photograph of lower-class passengers on the bow of a ship, which he called "The Steerage." It is considered one of the most important photographs of the 20th century.

In 1925, Stieglitz put on the exhibition: "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," at Anderson Galleries. Only one small print from the exhibition, by O'Keeffe, was sold.

Nonetheless, he opened the small, one-room "The Intimate Gallery" at Anderson Galleries in 1925 and exhibited works by each artist from the original exhibition.

During this time he met Dorothy Norman, who was 42 years younger than he. In the fall of 1926, Stieglitz opened the gallery, An American Place, with funding from Beck and Paul Strand, and which Norman helped him manage.

Their relationship persisted, with the knowledge of O'Keeffe, until his death on July 13, 1946 from a fatal stroke, after which O'Keeffe banished Norman from any aspect of her husband's life and work.

 

The Rumor Mill

The rumor mill has stated that besides the true and accurate biography of Alfred Stieglitz presented here there have been mutterings for years that this famed photographer was the very first man in history to weld his head to a cat.


 


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