Stiegliti Revisited

Article excerpt

The Photography of Alfred Stieglitz: Georgia

Doylestown, Pennsylvania

April 28, 2001

James A. Michener Art Museum

O'Keefe's Enduring Legacy

The work and philosophy of Alfred Stieglitz is experiencing a: resurgence of interest. The recent retrospective of Stieglitz's gallery exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., "Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and his New York Galleries," reinforces his pivotal position as the "champion" of American modern art. But this view of Stieglitz, more myth than man, has always loomed above his personal work and consequently the work's relevance to the development of a modern aesthetic. The question is-- what does a century Told Modernist like Stieglitz have to say to a post postmodern America? In searching for an answer, it is timely that George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film (GEH) has organized an international tour of Stieglitz's photography, offering the public an unprecedented opportunity to revisit his work and contemplate its relevance to current trends in American art.

There is significance to the timing of the GEH tour. The source for the majority of the prints in the Eastman collection was Stieglitz's second wife the painter Georgia O'Keefe. Upon Stieglitz's death in 1946, O'Keefe and her assistant Doris Bry sought to disseminate representative sets of his photographs to museums across the country. The collection destined for the GEH was described by Bry as "one of the finest Stieglitz print groups in the country." [1] Accompanying these collections, O'Keefe had clearly expressed the stipulation that, due to conservation concerns, the sets would not tour. Thanks to a recent agreement between the O'Keefe Foundation and the various museums holding Stieglitz collections, the public is now able to experience the GEH collection beyond the confines of Rochester, New York.

Capitalizing on this opportunity, the James A. Michener Art Museum, located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, sought to host the touring collection and organized a lecture series and a-day-long symposium around it. Due to Doylestown's close proximity to Washington, D.C., the GEH collection show was timed to coincide with the National Gallery of Art exhibition. The symposium featured photographic scholars, curators and contemporary photographers, each in their own way approaching the question of the Stieglitz legacy and his continued relevance.

The morning lectures featured Katherine Ware and Sarah Greenough, two curators eminently qualified to speak on the subject of Stieglitz and his work. Ware began the symposium with her lecture "The Road Not Taken: Dorothy True and Her Shoe." Ware is the curator of the Alfred Stieglitz Center for Photography, Department of Prints, Drawings and Photography located at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her lecture centered around the intriguing multiple exposure print Portrait of Dorothy True (1919), featuring the face of the subject superimposed on her posed leg. Explaining its accidental creation, Ware linked the True portrait to the work of the Dadaists, noting Stieglitz's willingness to exhibit the print despite never subsequently experimenting with the technique. Throughout the lecture, Ware's juxtaposition of individual pieces aimed to confirm the "dialogue" existing between Stieglitz's work and that of such contemporaries as Man Ray and Pablo Picasso, whose work Stieglitz brought to an American audience thr ough his various galleries. …