I’ve just finished reading two books related to Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz was a major figure in the latter part of the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th century. He originally built his reputation as a photographer and was instrumental in getting photography accepted as an art. He opened galleries (Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession also called ‘291’ after its address; The Intimate Gallery also known as “The Room”; and An American Place) where he displayed not only what he considered to be the best photography of the time, but also American artists (e.g John Marin, Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe). He also presented works from European artists who were later to because world renowned (e.g Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Constantin Brâncuși). He was initially a supporter of and mentor to such photography luminaries as Edward Steichen and Paul Strand. Stieglitz’s large ego and narcissistic personality could not allow anyone else to be a “leader” and he eventually broke with Steichen (because he saw him as becoming too commercial) and Strand (who felt that art should support social change).

The first of the two books: Alfred Steiglitz. Taking pictures. Making Painters by Phyllis Rose takes as its focus Stieglitz himself. It’s a relatively short, easy read giving all of the essentials of Stieglitz’s life and work. It also has a large number of photographs illustrating both his work, and the work of others in his circle.

The second book: Foursome. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paul Strand, Rebecca Salsbury by Carolyn Burke is about a third longer and much more complex in subject matter, dealing with the complex and often bewildering relationships between Stieglitz and his wife (Georgia O’Keeffe) and Strand and his wife (Rebecca Salsbury Strand).

Both are well worth reading.

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