A Very Modern Stieglitz

By Shaw-Eagle, Joanna | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 27, 2001 | Go to article overview

A Very Modern Stieglitz


Shaw-Eagle, Joanna, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Critics have called Alfred Stieglitz passionate, charismatic, willful and revolutionary. They have also described him as contrary, idiosyncratic, narcissistic and melodramatic.

His confrontations with artist Marsden Hartley and photographer Paul Strand, as well as Washington collector Duncan Phillips, were legendary.

Who is the real Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), the photographer and arts promoter who almost single-handedly introduced European and American modernism to the United States? Contradictions, as well as accomplishments, evidently ruled his life.

The National Gallery of Art aims to assess the multitalented Stieglitz with its new blockbuster exhibit, "Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries." The show, six years in the making, opens tomorrow.

The exhibit is the first to tackle the range of Stieglitz's contributions, and the National Gallery is well-equipped for the task.

Painter Georgia O'Keeffe, Stieglitz's wife, gave the gallery the largest and most important collection of his work in 1949. The 1,600 donated photographs survey his entire career and spurred a project called "Stieglitz," which began in 1999 with a new edition of the gallery's 1983 book "Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs and Writings."

Seven thematic presentations titled "Alfred Stieglitz: New Perspectives" on the gallery's Web site (www.nga.gov) followed. The publication in 2002 of a 600-page scholarly catalog with all 1,600 photographs and an exhibit of the photographer's work also is scheduled.

"Modern Art and America" aims to assess Stieglitz through his 95 exhibitions in New York from 1905 to 1946. The quality of the work and sureness of his eye - whether he's showing nudes by Auguste Rodin, sculptures from Africa, drawings by Pablo Picasso or sunrises by Arthur Dove - are what make this display extraordinary. The Phillips Collection recently showed "The Eye of Duncan Phillips, A Collection in the Making." The National Gallery could have named its exhibit, "The Eye of Alfred Stieglitz."

Consider his juxtaposition of two Picasso drawings, a reliquary sculpture of the Kota people of Gabon, an enormous wasp's nest and an empty brass bowl. The photographer called this installation photo "291-Picasso-Braque Exhibition" (1915).

The objects play off one another. The angular shapes of the Kota piece repeat themselves in the drawings. The calligraphic forms of the branches supporting the nest are restated in the calligraphic marks of Pablo Picasso. The oval of the African face echoes the oval of the nest.

These very different objects work well together but must have shocked many viewers at the time. The arrangement was part of Mr. Stieglitz's challenging the boundaries of art.

His revolution began in the attic of a brownstone at 291 Fifth Avenue. "It was the largest small room of its kind in the world," said painter Hartley.

The photographer launched his revolution from "291." He presented the first American exhibition of Henri Matisse's work in 1908. In April 1911, Stieglitz showed Picasso's complete evolution through cubism by surveying his drawings and paintings of that time. He gave the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi his first one-man show in 1914.

He welcomed innovative artists Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp, who moved to New York in 1915.

Picabia believed "the genius of the modern world is machinery," but he also could give his mechanized world a humorous twist. He depicted Stieglitz as a camera and an American girl (perhaps collector Agnes Meyer) as a spark plug.

Duchamp also believed in the power of the machine. In 1917 he submitted a sculpture humorously titled "Fountain" - actually a urinal - "by R. Mutt" to the Society of Independent Artists in New York.

Stieglitz showed it for a few days after its rejection by the society, confirming that a machine-made object could be art. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Very Modern Stieglitz
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.