Alfred Stieglitz: Modernist PhotographyPresentation Transcript
Alfred Stieglitz Father of American Modern Photography
Alfred Stieglitz had a double impact on the evolution of modern art in America. He fought for photography's acceptance as an art form as both a gallery owner and an audacious and dedicated photographer.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1864 during the Civil War, eldest of 6
Then moved to a brownstone on Manhattan's Upper East Side
He began to photograph while a student in Berlin in the 1880s and studied with the renowned photo chemist Hermann Wilhelm Vogel.
On his return to the United States in 1890, he began to advocate that photography should be treated as an art.
He wrote many articles arguing his cause, edited the periodicals Camera Notes and Camera Work.
He married Emmeline Obermeyer in 1893, after he returned to New York, and they had one child, Kitty, in 1898.
In 1902 formed the Photo-Secession, an organization of photographers committed to establishing the artistic merit of photography.
Photo-Secession held its own exhibitions and published Camera Work, a pre-eminent quarterly photographic journal, until 1917.
Stieglitz's camera work ended in 1937 due to heart disease.
He died in 1946 at 82
Stieglitz divorced his wife Emmeline in 1918, soon after she threw him out of their house when she came home and found him photographing Georgia O'Keeffe, whom he moved in with shortly thereafter.
America During Stieglitz’s Lifetime
Stieglitz witnessed some of the most profound changes this country has ever experienced: two world wars, the Great Depression, and the growth of America from a rural, agricultural nation to an industrialized and cultural superpower.
Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Constantin Brancusi.
La Tristesse du roi (Sorrows of the King), 1952 Henri Matisee These artists introduced Stieglitz to new ideas of color, form, and abstraction that deeply influenced his art.
Part 1: Impact as a Photographer
The Road to Modernism
At the beginning of the 1900s, photography was still hardly considered an art:
"Artists who saw my earlier photographs began to tell me that they envied me; that they felt my photographs were superior to their paintings, but that, unfortunately, photography was not an art. I could not understand why the artists should envy me for my work, yet, in the same breath, decry it because it was machine-made.” -Alfred Stieglitz
Sometime in late 1892 Stieglitz bought his first hand-held camera, a Folmer and Schwing 4x5 plate film camera
He used the new camera to make two of his best known images, "Winter, Fifth Avenue" and "The Terminal"
Stieglitz sought to gain recognition for his medium by producing effects which paralleled those found in fine arts such as painting.
Stieglitz’s work showed great technical mastery of tone and texture, and reveled in exploring atmospherics
Stieglitz’s Early Style
Stieglitz used natural elements such as use of natural elements like rain, snow, and steam to unify the picture as a whole
The Terminal, 1892 "Winter – Fifth Avenue" (1893)
Moving to Modernism
Stieglitz as a Modernist
As far as Stieglitz was concerned if painting was no longer limited to subjects like nature, religion, love and war, then photography would not be limited either.
Now a painting, a photograph, and all art forms, could capture the vital essence of the modern world by reflecting the personal vision of the artist.
The Steerage, 1907
Analysis of “The Steerage”
Description from the Whitney Museum of American Art
“ The Steerage”: Stieglitz’s First “Modernist” Picture
Regarded as his first "modernist" picture, the image that marked his move away from the rich tonality of his earlier Pictorial phase
It has since come to be seen as a benchmark for the beginnings of modernist photography
“The Steerage” cont.
The image was displaced in “Camera Works,” and was accompanied by a Cubist drawing by Picasso
Stieglitz loved to recount how Picasso had praised The Steerage for the way it transformed its conventional subject into a striking, collage-like depiction of different spaces.
“ The Starting Line”
“The Starting Line”
Stieglitz tuned into modern art movements in Europe
Used architectural elements to carve up space in this picture
The real subject of this photo is the relationship of the curving track, the horizon line, and ceiling and pillars in front of them.
“The Flat Iron”
For New Yorkers the Fuller building, nicknamed the Flat-iron because of its shape, was a symbol of a new, modern America. People either loved it or hated it.
The building and the tree form silhouettes, like cut-outs overlapping one on top of the other. This flattening of space comes from the influence of Japanese wood-block prints that were all the rage with modern artists of the time.
Stieglitz argued that photographers dealt with the same concerns that modern painters considered. Translating the influence of Japanese prints from painting and printmaking to photography was both a modern and an artistic thing to do.
“The Pool-Deal” 1910
The “Deal” in the title of this picture refers to Deal, New Jersey, where Alfred Stieglitz took the picture.
No longer concerned with photographs that looked like paintings, Stieglitz now emphasized modern art and photographs that looked like the work of a camera rather than a paintbrush.
He added concerns of modern art like line, shape and balance.
Part Two: Influence a Publisher and Gallery Owner
Getting Photography Published
Stieglitz was the leader of the movement, started the magazine “Camera Work”
He would publish the works of artists whom he considered representative for the movement
Cover of Camera Work, No 2, 1903. Cover design by Edward Steichen.
Stieglitz also ran three galleries one after another, "291" (1905–1917), "The Intimate Gallery" (1925–1929) and "An American Place" (1929–1947).
Located at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York City, “291” featured early modernist art works of European artists, such as Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso
Paintings Featured at 291 Standing Female Nude, 1910 Pablo Picasso The Garden of Love (Improvisation Number 27), 1912 Wassily Kandinsky Bottle and Wine Glass on a Table, 1912 Pablo Picasso John Marin and Alfred Stieglitz, ca. 1912–13 Marius de Zayas St. Paul's, Manhattan, 1914 John Marin Portrait of a German Officer, 1914 Marsden Hartley
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.
Alfred Stieglitz, The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, 1906
Examining the evolution of modern photography in America through Stieglitz reveals crucial cultural developments of the time. Stieglitz shows tension between the old America, and a new country of the machine, the explosion of urbanization, and changes in social attitudes. Stieglitz also fostered America’s artistic relationship with Europe and acted as a curator of artist and culture.