Lot 6
  • 6

Alfred Stieglitz

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Alfred Stieglitz
  • Platinum Print
  • 16 x 20 inches
platinum print, signed and dated in pencil in the margin, 1915; accompanied by the original mount, signed, titled, dated, and inscribed ‘To Mr. and Mrs. Chas. J. Liebmann [sic]’ in pencil


The photographer to Aline and Charles Liebman

To their descendants

Christie's New York, 8 October 1993, Sale 7734, Lot 81


Greenough 393

Waldo Frank, et al., America and Alfred Stieglitz: A Collective Portrait (New York, 1934), pl. XIII-A

Doris Bry, Exhibition of Photographs by Alfred Stieglitz (National Gallery of Art, 1958), pl. 5 

Dorothy Norman, Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer (New York, 1973), p. 12

Sarah Greenough and Juan Hamilton, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs and Writings (National Gallery of Art, 1983), pl. 23

Peter Galassi, American Photography 1890-1965 from The Museum of Modern Art (The Museum of Modern Art, 1995), p. 97

Sarah Greenough, et al., Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries (National Gallery of Art, 2000), pp. 4 and 184 

Pierre Apraxine and Lee Marks, Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company (White Oak Press, 1985), pl. 153


This platinum print is on heavy paper with a slightly and pleasingly warm tonality. The details the photograph sets forth are exquisitely rendered. The fabric on the walls, the papery covering of the wasp nest, and the burnished metal bowl all have a three-dimensionality that is quite surprising. Stieglitz left a thin white border around the image; the top and upper right borders are a distinct gray tonality, and this is due to Stieglitz "burning" in (i. e. giving extra exposure to) the upper portion of the image, where the ceiling's skylight would have otherwise appeared too bright to blend into the composition harmoniously. There is a crease in the upper right corner of the image which breaks the emulsion very slightly. The photograph is otherwise in excellent condition. It is unusual to find a Stieglitz photograph that is signed on the image itself, as this print is. It is accompanied by the original mount that is boldly inscribed by the photographer in his characteristic hand.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This well-known photograph of ‘291’ exemplifies the Stieglitz circle’s commitment to the progressive art theories of the time. Modernist drawings, an African sculpture, and a wasps’ nest were an unlikely combination in a Fifth Avenue gallery in 1915, but they demonstrated an approach to art that was bold and new.  As Edward Steichen remembered,

‘We had a few drawings by Braque and Picasso, and I determined that they would be fine material for the next exhibition.  I bought some bolts of cheesecloth . . . and we covered the dust-darkened walls with it . . .Then I hung the few Braques and Picassos on the walls and several of the more or less related African sculptures with them.  The place looked clean, fresh, and alive again, but I felt something was missing . . . When I mentioned this, [Emil] Zoler said he had a big wasp’s nest in fine condition.  A wasp’s nest was perfect, especially in relationship to the Cubism we had on the wall, and it was brought in’ (A Life in Photography, Chapter 5, unpaginated).    

As Helen Shannon proposes in her essay ‘African Art, 1914: The Root of Modern Art,’ to which this entry is indebted, the photograph offered here functions as a kind of artistic manifesto. Two Picasso drawings—Still Life: Bottle and Glass on Table (1912), and Violin (circa 1912)—flank a Kota reliquary figure, whose shapes are echoed in the drawings and the organic forms of the brass bowl and wasps’ nest.  Stieglitz had been among the first in America to promote Picasso’s work, and in 1914, he had mounted a ground-breaking exhibition of African sculpture, an innovation outside of ethnography circles. As Shannon writes, this meshing of cultures, different decades, and the natural world calls into question the traditional distinctions between Western and ‘primitive’ societies, and between high and low art (Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries, pp. 178-9).   

The photograph offered here was acquired directly from Stieglitz by Charles and Aline Liebman, forward-thinking arts patrons and the original owners of Stieglitz’s ‘Out of Window—291,’ Lot 8 in the present sale. 

In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, Greenough locates five other prints of this image: at the National Gallery of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and one formerly in the Gilman Paper Company Collection, sold in these rooms in 2006.