Collection of Thomas Walther
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Christie's New York, 20th Century Photographs: The Elfering Collection, 10 October 2005, Sale 1642, Lot 6
Private collection, San Francisco
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, 2008
Viewed as a sequence, these 10 photographs correspond to movements in a musical composition. In his 1923 article, entitled ‘How I Came to Photograph Clouds’ (Amateur Photographer and Photography, 19 September 1923), Stieglitz wrote, ‘. . . I wanted a series of photographs which when seen by Ernest Bloch (the great composer) he would exclaim: Music! music! Man, why that is music! How did you ever do that? And he would point to violins, and flutes, and oboes, and brass, full of enthusiasm, and would say he’d have to write a symphony called ‘Clouds.’. . . And when finally I had my series of ten photographs printed, and Bloch saw them – what I said I wanted to happen happened verbatim' (quoted in Stieglitz on Photography, p. 237).
Making a successful photograph of the sky had been a challenge for photographers since the medium’s inception. By the 1920s, photographic technology had progressed to the extent that photographs of clouds were possible, although difficult. In 1923, after exhibiting the 10 cloud photographs, Stieglitz wrote to Hart Crane, ‘Several people feel I have photographed God. May be’ (ibid., p. 240). Unlike his subsequent series Songs of the Sky and Equivalents, both made with the smaller 4-by-5-inch Graflex camera, Stieglitz’s 1922 cloud studies were made with an 8-by-10-inch view camera. The detail and nuance of these large contact prints, such as the luminous photograph offered here, were revelatory.
Sarah Greenough, in Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, locates four prints of this image: in the key set at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and at Gallery 292/Howard Greenberg, likely this print.
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