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To celebrate its expansion to the spectacular Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, the Museum will revisit the founders of its photography collection with an exhibition devoted to the renowned figure Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). A photographer who championed the emergence of the medium as an art form in the late 19th century, Stieglitz oversaw a series of galleries and publications that exerted tremendous influence on photography as well as on the advent of modernism in America. Alfred Stieglitz and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the inaugural installation in the Julien Levy Gallery, will include more than 50 works by the master, ranging from his student work in Europe in the late 1880s to the elegiac meditations on poplar trees at his family estate made in the mid-1930s.
A significant repository of Stieglitz’s photographs, the Museum’s holdings of his work began with the 1949 donation of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection by Georgia O’Keeffe, which was followed by donations from other close associates and family members. Notably, the Philadelphia-born photographer and activist Dorothy Norman gave her personal collection of photographs, including prints Stieglitz inscribed to her, and founded the Museum’s Alfred Stieglitz Center in 1966 in his honor. More recently, the Museum has received several extraordinary portraits of O’Keeffe as gifts from the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, further strengthening this cornerstone of the photography holdings.
“The Museum’s Stieglitz photographs are regularly requested for loan shows all over the world but have not been seen in a solo exhibition in Philadelphia for many years, making this a rare opportunity to study the photographer at his finest,” said Katherine Ware, the Museum’s Curator of Photographs. “It’s only fitting to celebrate the department’s move to the Perelman Building by presenting the work that so decisively established our photography collection. The exhibition also gives the public an opportunity to reexamine afresh his contributions as a photographer.”
Alfred Stieglitz and the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents the full range of the artist’s engagement with photography. Included are master prints in a variety of mediums, as well as memorabilia such as portraits of the artist and family, photographs from his student years, and an issue of the illustrated periodical Camera Notes, which Stieglitz edited for the Camera Club of New York. The exhibition also features his much-admired portraits of other artists, including Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove whom Stieglitz represented and photographed at his Gallery 291. Much of the exhibition is devoted to several extended series of images for which the artist is known, foremost among them his serial portrait of O’Keeffe. Stieglitz also made numerous photographs of Norman, a young admirer who embraced his vision with extraordinary devotion in his later years and after his death wrote an influential book, Alfred Stieglitz: American Seer.
The exhibition is divided into seven sections, encompassing the early work and gravures; portraits of artists; images of O’Keeffe and of Norman; landscapes made at the artist’s family property at Lake George; the cloud pictures he titled Equivalents; views of New York City seen from the Shelton Hotel; and poplar trees at Lake George, along with a selection of studio portraits of the artist, photographs of his family, and some of his gifts to Norman. Other images of O’Keeffe include rare prints of 1918, the year the two became romantically involved, showing variants of a compelling composition he created, Hands IV and Hands Sewing, as well as later portraits chronicling O’Keeffe’s increasing confidence and independence as the couple began to grow apart.
The exhibition underscores the role that artists and collectors play in the formation of a major public resource and repository as well as exploring the impact of O’Keeffe and Norman on Stieglitz’s photography. The full picture of Steiglitz that emerges benefits also from works given by other donors who were close to the artist or otherwise committed to the study of modern art in America, including the avant garde collectors Louise and Walter Arensberg, the legendary Museum curator Carl Zigrosser, Stieglitz’s grandniece Sue Davidson Lowe, Hazel Strand (wife of Stieglitz’s friend and fellow photographer Paul Strand), the distinguished scholar of American modernism, William Innes Homer, and others.