Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work, one of the key documents of 20th-century photography, is rare as a complete set. The present offering, 50 volumes in their original bindings, is complete with all of the plates as issued, as well as the Stieglitz Icy Night photogravure as an advertisement for Goerz lenses in Number 4, and the green-and-gold Steichen-designed advertisement for the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in Number 13. This set is further distinguished by Steichen's signature on the title page and on all of the Steichen plates in Number 2.
According to Sotheby's 1981 cataloguing for this set of Camera Work, about half of the volumes were given by Stieglitz to his close friend, Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), a prolific writer and critic of modern art, architecture, and city planning. Mumford was one of the writers and critics attracted to the intellectual atmosphere at Stieglitz's Intimate Gallery, along with Sherwood Anderson, Hart Crane, Jean Toomer, and others. His column on architecture, The Sky Line, along with art reviews and other pieces, appeared regularly in The New Yorker from the 1930s through the 1970s. He was an editor of America and Alfred Stieglitz, a collection of essays celebrating the photographer's 70th birthday, and the author of over 30 books, primarily or architecture and the modern city, including The Culture of Cities (1938).
This set is also notable for a personal inscription from Stieglitz on the free endpaper of Number 47: 'To N. E. Montross/ with kindest thanks----/ Alfred Stieglitz/ January 29 – 1915.' Newman Emerson Montross (d. 1932) was a New York City art dealer and collector. His area of specialty was modern American painting. Sue Davidson Lowe, in her Stieglitz: A Memoir/Biography (New York, 1983), describes how Stieglitz, when '291' closed in 1917, consigned some of the art work to other New York galleries, including Montross, who also represented the Stieglitz-circle painter John Marin. Indeed, when N. E. Montross fell ill in 1924, on the eve of his annual Marin show, it was Stieglitz he asked to take over the gallery on a temporary basis. Like Stieglitz, Montross was adventurous and committed to modern art; in addition to contemporary American painters, he also showed the work of Matisse and Van Gogh. The New York Times wrote that Montross's 'long championship of modern American art produced memorable results and will not soon be forgotten' (18 December 1932).
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