Lot 65
  • 65

Alfred Stieglitz

100,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alfred Stieglitz
  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Gelatin silver print
flush-mounted, mounted again to a larger card, annotated 'OK507A' by Georgia O'Keeffe in pencil on the reverse, 1918; accompanied by a white metal American Place frame (2)


Collection of Georgia O’Keeffe

To her sister, Anita O’Keeffe Young

Private Collection 


Greenough 556

Sarah Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs & Writings (Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1983), pl. 43

John Szarkowski,  Alfred Stieglitz at Lake George (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1995), p. 49

Therese Mulligan, ed., The Photography of Alfred Stieglitz: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Enduring Legacy (Rochester: George Eastman House, 2000), cat. 111

Catalogue Note

Of the many photographs that Alfred Stieglitz made of Georgia O’Keeffe from the 1910s to the 1930s, the image offered here is one of the few that shows the artist at work.  Taken at the Stieglitz family home in Lake George, New York, this study shows O’Keeffe seated outside and painting in watercolor, a medium that she had been working with intensively since 1916.  While many of Stieglitz’s remarkable early studies of O’Keeffe stem directly from their passion for one another and focus on O’Keeffe’s body, the present image catches her in the act of creation.  O’Keeffe’s observant eyes and skilled hands are the key focal points of this image, while the tools of her art lay close by.

Stieglitz had first encountered O’Keeffe through her artwork in 1916, when Anita Pollitzer, a former classmate of O’Keeffe’s and a frequent visitor to Stieglitz’s 291 gallery, showed him a series of her drawings that deeply impressed him. Throughout the early days of their affair and marriage, Stieglitz was O’Keeffe’s greatest champion in the New York art world.  This image captures O’Keeffe in action, creating the work that captivated Stieglitz and would ultimately make her one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. 

This photograph has a distinguished provenance.  It was originally in the collection of O’Keeffe; numbering in her hand appears on the reverse of the mount.  It was given by O’Keeffe to her sister, Anita O’Keeffe Young, the well-known socialite and wife of railroad magnate Robert R. Young.  Anita was an enthusiastic collector of her sister’s art, which she hung in her homes in Newport, Palm Beach, and New York.  By means of purchase and gift, Anita Young acquired many of O’Keeffe’s most celebrated paintings and drawings, including Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (now in the collection of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art).  The two sisters maintained a close relationship throughout their lives, with Young giving financial support when needed.  O’Keeffe, for her part, kept her sister supplied with loans of paintings and outright gifts, in addition to selling works to her directly, rather than through her dealer. 

The years 1916 through 1918 were especially productive ones for O’Keeffe and saw her focus intensively on the watercolor medium.  While she had previously concentrated on drawing in charcoal, 1916 marked a deepening exploration of the use of color in her work.  As O’Keeffe authority Judith C. Walsh notes, the immediacy of the watercolor medium, and ‘the emotional power and beauty of clear vibrant color,’ inspired O’Keeffe to experiment and evolve (O’Keeffe on Paper, National Gallery of Art, 2000, p. 58).  O’Keeffe pushed herself relentlessly to achieve perfection, and commented wryly to her sister Anita, ‘I’ve just come to the comforting conclusion that I’ll have to paint acres and acres of watercolor landscapes before I will look for a passibly [sic] fair one’ (ibid., p. 66).

O’Keeffe’s watercolor explorations from this period provided a decisive step forward in the development of her work.  Stieglitz, in his role as a pioneering gallerist, was especially receptive to the medium.  In 1908, he had famously shown watercolors by Rodin at 291, an exhibition which was seen by O’Keeffe.  In addition to work in the medium by Cézanne and Picasso, watercolors by Stieglitz’s immediate stable of American artists, including Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Arthur Dove, and others, were frequently shown in his galleries.  Ralph E. Fine and Elizabeth Glassman suggest in their essay in O’Keeffe on Paper that ‘Stieglitz’s orientation to other artistic media was rooted in his sensitivity to the distinctive possibilities of drawings and other works on paper’ (p. 18).  As a photographer attuned to the artistic process, Stieglitz favored these works over oils and sculpture because they embodied the immediacy of the act of creation.  Stieglitz would go on to feature O’Keeffe’s watercolors in his exhibitions, and included 10 in her first one-woman show in 1917. 

Sarah Greenough, in Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, locates prints of this image in the following five institutional collections: the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York; and The Baltimore Museum of Art.  Another print of this image was sold at auction in 2012.