The Example of Alfred Stieglitz

By Loughery, John | The Hudson Review, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

The Example of Alfred Stieglitz

Loughery, John, The Hudson Review

IMAGINE AN ART DEALER who put prospective buyers through an aesthetic cross-examination, who needed to be sure that would-be patrons were actually worthy of owning a particular work under his care. Imagine a dealer who, in the face of a growing and lucrative market for new European work, turned his back on foreign artists to promote only those native talents he felt were most adventurous, deserving, and overlooked. Imagine a dealer who didn't talk to artists about commissions, publicity, or trends. Imagine a dealer who regarded art education with suspicion, never toadied to museum poobahs, and refused to label any painting or sculpture a "smart buy." Not only is it impossible to conjure up such a quixotic image in the art world of 2001, but even the term "art dealer" seems a misnomer for an individual of so radical a bent. And, to be sure, Alfred Stieglitz had no use for the term or similar commercial ones like "client" or "investment." A "revolutionist" was Stiegliz's own preferred self-definition, and for want of anything better, that is what we have to work with. Even "aesthete" and "philosopher" are, in the end, wide of the mark.

"Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries," a spring exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., was the first comprehensive look at this unique cultural figure ever assembled, and it was a curatorial triumph in many ways. The timing was also right as the controversies of his day recede into history. Stieglitz's relationship with Georgia O'Keeffe has been done to death, and all of the artists he promoted-e.g., John Marin, Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley-have been the subject of retrospectives and monographs aplenty, all of which properly credit his role in their professional lives. Yet it is fair to wonder, even at what would appear to be a very late date, how he really figures in most people's understanding of America's cultural development and our current besotted relationship to the arts. Art historian William Innes Homer began the serious scholarship on Stieglitz thirty years ago with a fine academic book, long-since out of print. Stieglitz's acolyte, assistant, and lover from the 1930s, the late Dorothy Norman, pushed the hagiographic angle shortly thereafter (the subtitle of her memoir, still in print, is "An American Seer"), and his niece's daughter published a lengthy, creditable memoir a few years later. Museum attention to his photography-Stieglitz as artist rather than leader of the avant-garde-- has been extensive and judicious. A solid biography by Richard Whelan came out in the mid-1990s, while another by Judith Mara Gutman is eagerly awaited. (Gutman's project, given her exclusive access to Norman's papers and the fact that the book has been more than a decade in the making, is likely to be the definitive biography for our time.) At the National Gallery a sizeable rack of scholarly studies on one or another aspect of his intellectual circle was a bit daunting. Still, through no fault of the art historians, there are ways in which Alfred Stieglitz seems profoundly, sadly irrelevant to our age, and any corrective effort is to be applauded. The problem is: is anyone listening?

The basis for this exhibition was a re-creation of the three galleries Stieglitz operated in New York City between 1908 and 1946. This involved bringing together 190 artworks and arranging them in a yearby-year sequence, paralleling the galleries' exhibition schedules. The early exhibitions at "291," so-called because of its location at 291 Fifth Avenue, introduced Americans to the newest European art-Cezanne watercolors, Fauve oils by Matisse (his first showing on this side of the Atlantic), Rodin's late figure drawings-in a small, quiet space not likely to attract any but artists and serious students of art. Open to the fervor, if not the hoopla, of the 1913 Armory Show, Stieglitz bought Vassily Kandinsky's The Garden of Love (Improvisation No. …

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

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
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Example of Alfred Stieglitz


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?

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

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access 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,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.