“These last 10 days have been very full ones—possibly the fullest I have had in my life. […] She is much more extraordinary than even I had believed.—In fact I don’t believe there ever has been anything like her. Mind & feeling very clear—spontaneous—& uncannily beautiful—absolutely living every pulse-beat.”
EXTREMELY RARE PHOTOGRAPH OF ICONIC O’KEEFFE IMAGE, SIGNED BY O’KEEFFE.
The second occasion of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz’s meeting was, in Stieglitz’s own estimation, the happiest time of his life. Having met previously one year prior, O’Keeffe came to New York from her home in Canyon, Texas, following years of close correspondence. "The years from 1918, when Georgia O'Keeffe moved to New York, until 1937 when Stieglitz put his cameras away because of poor health were the most prolific ones in his life. [...] O'Keeffe inspired in him a creative passion, and simply a passion, he had never known before [...] In less than eight weeks before they left for Lake George in August 1918, Stieglitz made more than fifty studies of O'Keeffe [...] These portraits from their first summer in New York reflect their growing closeness and O'Keeffe's increasing comfort at being the object of such concentrated scrutiny." (Greenough, pp. xxxv–xxxvi).
O’Keeffe’s charcoal drawing, Special #15, that features as the backdrop of Stieglitz’s portrait—now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art—was one of the ten or so works which first brought O’Keeffe and Stieglitz together. A mutual acquaintance in Anita Pollitzer led to Pollitzer presenting a selection of O’Keeffe’s drawings to Stieglitz for review in 1916 at his famed Gallery 291 (Whelan, p. 370). “Examining the first drawing,” Stieglitz recalled, “I realized that I had never seen anything like it.” (Norman, p. 129). Agreeing to the show series, entitled Special, in his renown Gallery 291, Stieglitz later afforded O’Keeffe a solo exhibition in 1917. By 1924, after a quickly-flourishing romance, the two were married. The 1918 photograph thus marks the start of their relationship which would last until Stieglitz passing two decades later, while homaging the works which set forth her career.
The photograph was one of 22 selected by Stieglitz to donate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1928, forming their first acquisition of art photography. Of Stieglitz and his donation, the Met writes, “Finally, working with curator William Ivins Jr., he ‘opened [the] sacred halls’ of the Museum to photography through gifts in 1928 and 1933” (Making the Met, 1870–2020)—demarcating Stieglitz's portrait of O’Keeffe as one of the founding items of the Met’s nascent Department of Photography.
The present gelatin silver print appears to be have been printed in the 1930s as press material, and still bears O’Keeffe’s inscription on the reverse. She lists her return address as “Room 1710, 509 Madison Ave., N.Y.”, a.k.a., Stieglitz’s illustrious final gallery on Madison Avenue, An American Place. An artistic hub of the New York art scene, An American Place cultivated young artists (including Arthur Dove and John Dove along with, of course, O’Keeffe), and staunchly declared itself a come-as-you-are cultural mecca: “Nothing asked of anyone who comes, | No anything on the walls except what you see there, | The doors of An American Place are ever open to all”. O’Keeffe’s inscription on the reverse of the photograph indicates the scene of belonging she found in New York with Stieglitz over the decades after her arrival in 1918.
Provenance: Pearl Korn, New York; Donna Schneier Fine Art, New York; Helios Gallery, New York, 1976; Private Collection, New York; Margolis & Moss, Santa Fe; Paul H. Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco; Private Collection, New York.
Extremely scarce: One of only seven known prints from Stieglitz's original negative (OK 15 A), and one of only two known to be in private hands. One platinum print and one palladium print exist in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. (Greenough 478 and 479, respectively) made from the negative (OK 15 A). Five further prints are known to exist: a platinum-palladium print, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; an additional platinum print, Hallmark Photographic Collection, Kansas City; a “black palladiotype” (possibly a platinum-palladium print), The Art Institute of Chicago; a gelatin silver print formerly held by Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco and now in a private collection; and one other print in a private collection. The present print is the Herzmann gelatin silver print.
STIEGLITZ, ALFRED. Photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Steiglitz (1918). Gelatin silver print, likely printed later. 232 x 184 mm (9⅛ x 7¼ in). Inscribed by O’Keeffe in ink on reverse of the flush-mount: “Please return to Georgia O’Keeffe | Room 1710 | 509 Madison Ave., N.Y.” Mild crease in top-right corner, and milder crease extreme top-left corner, hairline scratch at bottom-right border; on reverse, residue likely from hanging slightly discolouring "Roo" in "Room", inscription including signature otherwise fine.
Greenough, Sarah, The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2002)
Making the Met, 1870–2020, ed. by Andrea Bayer and Laura D. Corey (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2020)
Norman, Dorothy, Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer (New York: Random House, 1973)
O’Keeffe, Georgia, Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978)
Whelan, Richard, Alfred Stieglitz: A Biography (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995).