Father of American
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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso,
and Constantin Brancusi.
La Tristesse du roi (Sorrows of the
King), 1952 Henri Matisee
introduced Stieglitz to
new ideas of color,
form, and abstraction
that deeply influenced
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
Stieglitz’s Early Style
such as use
picture as a
The Terminal, 1892
"Winter – Fifth
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.
Analysis of “The Steerage”
• Description from the Whitney Museum of
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
• 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
“The Starting Line”
• Stieglitz tuned into modern art movements in
• 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.
• 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 “Deal” in the title of this picture refers to
Deal, New Jersey, where Alfred Stieglitz took
• 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
• He added concerns of modern art like line,
shape and balance.
Part Two: Influence a Publisher and
Getting Photography Published
• Stieglitz was the leader of the
movement, started the
magazine “Camera Work”
• He would publish the works
of artists whom he
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"
• 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
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
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
Alfred Stieglitz, The
Little Galleries of the
• 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.
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