Stiegliltz, Alfred

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STIEGLILTZ, ALFRED (1864–1946), U.S. photographer. Stieglitz, who was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, led the way to the emergence of photography as an art form. His contributions to photography were closely matched with his efforts on behalf of modernist painters in their struggle for recognition. In the dual role of craftsman and prophet, Stieglitz took pictures thought to be impossible and gave a rising generation of modernist painters a place to show their work. His photography was hung in nearly every major museum, the first photographer to be so honored. After Stieglitz's family moved to New York in 1871, he enrolled at the City College of New York at 17 to study engineering. In 1881 he went to Berlin, but soon terminated his engineering studies after he bought his first camera there. He became the first amateur photographer in Germany, and he soon defied tradition. Instead of pictures by daylight, Stieglitz took them at night. He was the first to use a camera in snow or rain, the first to photograph skyscrapers, clouds, and airplanes and was a pioneer in the use of color. He left Europe in 1890 and returned to the United States with a large camera, a tripod, and a small box with a ground glass and bellows and a shutter that cost 50 cents. He made some of his greatest images with this unpretentious equipment. His first major collection traced the development of New York. Two of his most popular pictures were taken in 1892: a horsecar lumbering up Fifth Avenue in a raging blizzard and a driver watering his steaming horses at an old rail terminal. "Winter – Fifth Avenue" and "The Terminal – Street Car Horses" became internationally known. Stieglitz then turned to nature studies of clouds, trees, grass, and woods and branched out to things made by man: houses, barns, autos, planes. He allowed no retouching and no eccentric angle shots. Also, he took no money for his photographs, and later found himself living in poverty. His best photographic work ended in the 1920s.

Stieglitz also ran an art gallery, known as 291, where he showed the works of Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, John Marin, and Marsden Hartley. He also launched the careers of Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Max Weber, and Georgia O'Keeffe, whom he married in 1924. Under Stieglitz, O'Keeffe's paintings of flowers and simple landscapes, many done at his retreat in Lake George, n.y., found their way into American collections. A simple photograph of O'Keeffe's hands became a classic. Inside the gallery, Stieglitz took a number of portraits that rhymed the faces of his sitters with the shapes on the walls. His portrait of his daughter, Kitty, with a fuzzy hat on, rhymes with Picasso's "Head of a Woman" just behind her. The gallery was closed in 1917, but in 1929 Stieglitz opened An American Place, which also became an influential gallery. In 1934 Equivalents allowed celebrated poets, writers, artists, and leading photographers to contribute their interpretation of Stieglitz both as artist and personality. His brother was the chemist Julius Oscar *Stieglitz.


D. Norman, Alfred Stieglitz: Introduction to an American Seer (1960); H.J. Seligmann, Alfred Stieglitz Talking (1966); D. Norman (ed.), (1947).

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]