The Art of Seeing - Photographs From the Alfred Stieglitz Collection (Photography Art eBook)

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Photographs From the Alfred Stieglitz Collection

Text of The Art of Seeing - Photographs From the Alfred Stieglitz Collection (Photography Art eBook)

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  • 5/25/2018 The Art of Seeing - Photographs From the Alfred Stieglitz Collection (Photog...

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    hotographymaybe definedintwo ways:as an instantaneous,mechanicalrecordingof realityand as a formof personal,creativexpression,such as painting.It s certainlyboth.Photographytoday is ubiquitous.Most of us own cameras,and we chronicleoufamily ife-the babypicture, he graduationpicture, he weddingpicture,have become almost rituals.Wephotographorare photographedin frontof monumentsduringourtravels.We see hundredsof photographdaily n newspapers, magazines,books, and subwaycards. Most of thesepicturescould not claim to be art.Onthe otherhand,the camera as thedevice of a trulycreativepersoncan be the ultimatenself-expression.Thephotographeruses his fine eye to select images;with his lens and camerahe interprets nd synthesizesthe waya painterdoes with his pigments.Thephotographs nthis Bulletinare undeniablypartof a creativeprocess.One has onlyto glance at these pictures-at Steichen'sdelicatelybalancechiaroscuro,Evans'satmosphericcathedral nterior,he subtleshapes ofKuehn'sstilllife,or Sheeler's light-struck eometricforms-to concludethat these are highlypersonalartisticachievementsvisuallyrelated o painingsor prints.These photographswere amongthose collected byAlfredStieglitz,pho-tographer, urator, uthor,and publisher.Duringhe early1900s he deter-mined o win forthe mediumrecognitionas a fineart.Throughhis writingworks,photographic ournals, ectures,and exhibitions,he foughtforpho-tographyIn1928 twenty-twoof his own pictures, he firstwe hadevercollected,enteredthe MetropolitanMuseum.As partof his tireless efforts on behalfof photography,Stieglitzbegan, in1894, to acquirethe works of his Americanand European olleagues. Hebuiltupa matchless collection that includedphotographsby manyof hismost talentedcontemporaries-Kasebier,Coburn,Day,Eugene,Steichen,and White-and those of a slightlyyoungergeneration-Sheeler,Strand,Adams,and Porter.He feltstrongly hat these worksbelongedinthe Metropolitan,and 580 of them came to us, firstas his giftin .933 and lateras abequest in 1949. These remarkable ictures,and Stieglitz'sown photo-graphspresented in 1928, were the veryfoundationsof ourphotographycollection,and they set a precedentthatencouragedourcurators, irstWilliamM.Ivins,Jr, and then A. HyattMayor,o boldlysearch out othermasterpiecesof the medium.Succeeding curatorshavecontinuedto buildandtodaywe have approximately 0,000 carefully elected photographs,which because of theirsuperbqualitymakeourcollection rankamongtheforemostof the world.Anexhibitionof 200 pictures romStieglitz'scollectionwillopen at theMuseum nlate May.Madepossible by a grantfromVivitarCorporation,twas selected and organizedbyWestonJ' Naef,Associate Curator f Printand Photographs,and willbe accompaniedby a comprehensivecatalogueof all the Museum'sStieglitzcollectionphotographs.Mr.Naef is the authorof the catalogueas well as this Bulletin,whichcomplementsthe exhibitionThisexhibitionand these publications, omingat the 50-yearmarkof ourphotography ollection,are a fitting ribute o AlfredStieglitz, o whomAmericanphotographyand the Museumowe so much.Philippede MontebelActingDirectorThe Metropolitan Museum of ArtBulletin Spring 197Volume XXXV,Number 4Published quarterly.Copyright ? 1978 by The MetropolitanMuseum of Art, FifthAvenue and 82 StreeNew York,N.Y.10028. Second class postage paid at New York,N.Y.Subscriptions 11.50 a year. Singcopies 2.95. Sent free to Museum members. Four weeks' notice requiredfor change of address. Bacissues available on microfilm romUniversityMicrofilms,313 N. FirstStreet, AnnArbor,Michigan.VolumI-XXXVIII1905-1942] available as a clothbound reprintset or as individualyearly volumes from ArnPress, 330 Madison Avenue, New York,N.Y.10017, or from the Museum, Box 255, Gracie Station, NeYork,N.Y.10028. Editor n Chief of the Bulletin:Joan K.Holt;Associate Editor:Sara HunterHudson; Editoparttime: Shari Lewis. ArtDirector: Stuart Silver.Design: Goslin/Barnett, Inc.On the cover: Detail of After the Grand Prix-Paris (no. 28), by EdwardSteichen

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    Introduction

    Portraitof Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) byGertrude Kasebier. 1902. Platinum on tis-sue, touched with pencil near face, 337 x245 mm (131/4x 9% in.). Naef 354.(49.55.170). For a note on Stieglitz, see theinside back cover

    n the winterof 1902 GeneralLuigiPalmade Cesnola, Director f TheMetropolitanMuseumof Art,was asked bythe Duke of Abruzzi,a direc-torof Turin's nternational xposition f ModernDecorativeArts,to or-ganize an exhibitof importantAmericanphotographs.Generalde Ces-nola learned hat the best personto advise himwas AlfredStieglitz,atalentedphotographer nd the most serious collector of photographs n theUnitedStates and possiblythe world.Stieglitz,who met withthe General nan office at the Museum, aterrecalled in Twicea Year No. 5-6, 1940-1941]): I old the Generalwhatmight orphotographyhad been and stillwas, and that Iwould let himhavthe collection needed for Turin f he guaranteed hat when it came back itwouldbe accepted bythe MetropolitanMuseumof Art n toto and hungthere. Stieglitzrecollectedthat de Cesnolagasped: Why,Mr.Stieglitz,youwon't insist thata photographcan possiblybe a workof art... you are afanatic. Stieglitzreplied hat he was indeeda fanatic, but hat timewillshow thatmyfanaticism s not completely llfounded.Stieglitzarranged orsixtyprintsby thirty-onephotographerso go toTurin;orty-three f them were revealed, n latercorrespondence,to be frohis personalcollection. Thegroupwas awarded he King'sPrize,and inappreciation,Stieglitzwrote to LuigiRoversi,de Cesnola's secretary, hatafteran eighteen years struggleIam gladto haveaccomplishedmylife'sdream,to see Americanphotography-sneeredat not more thansix yearsago-now leadingall the world.Stieglitzwas not to see the completerealization f his agreementwithdeCesnola,for the General'sdeathearlyin 1903 prevented he photographsfrombeingshown at the Museumas had been promised.Stieglitz'scollec-tion, however, ubsequentlycame to the Museumas a giftin 1933 and as abequest in 1949. Thus his desirefor the photographs o residealongsidemasterengravings,woodcuts, and lithographs, s he contendedtheydeservedto be, was fulfilled.

    he collectionnow owned bythe Metropolitan as the resultofStieglitz'sactivitybetween 1894 and 1911, when his acquisitionsofphotographsbegan to abate. Stieglitzobtained most of his photo-graphswhen he was editor irstof CameraNotes (1897-1902) andlaterof Camera Work1902-191 7); butafter 1910 his growing nterest inotherart formscaused the rosterof photographerso be graduallyclosed, and privatecontroversies, nwhichhe seemed continuallynvolvedfinallybrought o a halt his collectingof photographs.Between1907 and 1917, when he met GeorgiaO'Keeffe whomhe marriedin 1924), Stieglitzentered a new phase of his artistic ife,which was inmanyways reflected nthe photographshe hadso resolutelyassembled.The collectionof AlfredStieglitzhad, inthe wordsof GeorgiaO'Keeffe,begunto collect him. Moresignificantly,he photographs,manyof whichwere soft focus and painterly,ame to representa visual mode thatheeventuallyrepudiated n his own workof the 1920s-which he describedterselyas so direct.... Justthe straightgoods.GeorgiaO'Keeffesagely perceivedthe incongruitybetweenStieglitz'saesthetic and the taste he expressed in his choice of workby others. IntheNew YorkTimesMagazine December11, 1949), she wrote: The collec-2

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    tion does not reallyrepresentStieglitz's aste; Iknowthathe did not want[by 1917] manythingsthat werethere;...By 1919, afterthe demise of CameraWork,when he had become inter-ested inavant-gardeart,Stieglitzwrote to his old friendR. ChildBayley nLondonabout his collectionof photographs: Itwould makeinterestinghistory o writeup how Icame by allthese famous masterpieces.Theycosta fortune nactual cash outlay.Mycollection is undoubtedlyunique. Hewenton to describe nostalgicallyhe process of putting norderhis longneglected and messy personalaffairs, particularlyhe five- to six-hundredphotographs, ncluding Steichens, Whites,Eugenes, Days, Puyos,Demachys,Kuehns,Hennebergs,Watzeks,LeBegues, Brigmans,Kase-biers,Coburns,Seeleys, Hofmeisters,Keileys,Evans,etc., etc. Not longafterthese wordswerewritten, he collectionwas putintostorage untilStieglitz's irstgiftof photographs o the Museum n 1933.

    - he scope of the collection is remarkable,orincludedare photo-graphsby HeinrichKuehn,Rene LeBegue, and RobertDemachy,who, judgingby Stieglitz'sown workof the 1920s and 30s, would nothave appealedto him because theirprintmakingechniqueswerevirtuallyhe oppositeof his own. Stieglitzbecame a pfiristand avoid-ed the highlymanipulatedprintsof his European olleagues.Stieglitz'scollection was not assembled withgreatrationale,butexhibitsa patternof random,oftenspontaneousacquisition.Thereare onlytenphotographers-amongthem J. CraigAnnan,F HollandDay,GertrudeKasebier,EdwardSteichen,