IMPORTANT ALFRED STIEGLITZ PHOTOGRAPH, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY STIEGLITZ.
Alfred Stieglitz’s (1864 - 1946) influence on American art and culture cannot be overstated. He has been justly celebrated for the pioneering exhibitions of modern European art that he presented at 291, the gallery that he ran between 1905 and 1917. There Stieglitz introduced American audiences to the works of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and George Braque. He championed early American modernist painters, embracing those such as Georgia O’Keeffe (his muse and wife), Marsden Hartley, and Charles Demuth first at 291 and then at his subsequent galleries The Intimate Gallery (1925 - 1929) and An American Place (1929 - 1946).
His greatest passion, though, was photography. During Stieglitz’s youth, photography’s cumbersome tools and technical requirements restricted its use to descriptive and recording purposes. Stieglitz understood that photography, much like painting and sculpture, could be a vehicle for artistic expression and by the time he died few people doubted it. He elevated and promoted the art of photography through Camera Work, the classic journal he ran from 1903 through 1917; through his influential galleries; and of course through his own photographs.
As early as 1915 Stieglitz began photographing the city from his windows: either taking a series of quick, successive photographs or returning to a particular view throughout the year. As his energy and health declined later in life, he photographed almost exclusively from the windows of his longtime home on the 30th floor of the Shelton Hotel and from the windows of An American Place in midtown Manhattan.
The current photo was taken in either November or December of 1930 or early 1931 and looks north from An American Place. It is conceptually far removed from Stieglitz’s earlier, painterly evocations of New York City. The photograph emphasizes the growing fragmentation of modern life and also manifests Stieglitz’s increasing removal from the hustle and bustle of New York City. The artist transforms the dramatic high rises into solid geometric forms by cropping the tallest buildings. Those skyscrapers manage to catch and reflect the sun’s rays while casting deep shadows over the older, smaller buildings. In the foreground one sees the textures and typography visible from the window of the 17th floor gallery, but even some of these details are heavily shadowed by taller buildings.
Stieglitz clearly held this particular print in high regard, as it is signed in pencil along with a request that it be returned to An American Place. He later gifted it to Georgia Englehard (American, 1906 -1986), his niece and noted model. During summers spent at the family’s Lake George home Engelhard modeled for her uncle and studied painting with his wife, Georgia O’Keeffe. Stieglitz exhibited Engelhard’s early paintings at 291 and the uncle and niece corresponded regularly for years. Months after Stieglitz’s death in 1946 Englehard created a pictorial homage for Popular Photography that honored the artist’s career and included this image, presumably drawn from her own private collection.
Following Stieglitz’s death Georgia O’Keeffe combed through thousands of her husband’s photographs, art, and letters. She carefully assembled a body of work that traces the evolution of Stieglitz’s work, from its inception in the 1880’s to its rich maturation in the 1930s, and thoroughly documents all aspects of his decisive contribution to the art of photography. O’Keeffe selected the finest examples, including From My Window at An American Place, North, to be donated to "The Key Set" at the National Gallery of Art. and gave other prints that were in his possession to The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Carl Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk University, Nashville. Other prints of this image can be found in the National Museum of Art, Tokyo and private collections.
On this print:
This print is signed and captioned by Stieglitz ("New York - 1931 / by Alfred Stieglitz") in pencil on the matte, with an additional note by Stieglitz ("With permission 'An American Place' Kindly return to") followed by a stamp with Stieglitz's name and address. There are also pencil markings on the verso, possibly indicating guidance for hanging. It was printed while Stieglitz was at An American Place, and the negative was almost certainly developed by Stieglitz himself for this print.
Provenance: Alfred Stieglitz to Georgia Engelhard; Private collection, New York.
Size: Image = 7 1/4 x 9 1/4 in (184 x 234 mm). With original mount = 10 1/4 x 13 1/2 in (260 x 342 mm). Framed to an overall size of approx. 15 1/2 x 16 1/2 in.
New York: 1931. Some spots of Gelatin silver print. Image in outstanding condition without any creasing; matte with a few spots of soiling, including spot over the “With permission” statement. Stunningly framed under UV-protecting museum glass.
References: Sarah Greenough, “Alfred Stieglitz/From My Window at An American Place, North/1930/1931,” Alfred Stieglitz Key Set, NGA Online Editions (accessed January 13, 2023).
Price: $16,500 .