Lot 106
  • 106

Alfred Stieglitz

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Alfred Stieglitz
  • palladium print
palladium print, mounted to board, 1918-19


The photographer to Georgia O'Keeffe

Private collection, Santa Fe, 1986

Acquired by the present owner from the above


Greenough 523

In Focus: Alfred Stieglitz (The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), pl. 26


This rich palladium print is, characteristically, on matte-surface paper. Stieglitz printed on a variety of palladium and platinum papers during this period, and the print offered here has the range and totality of the paper that O'Keeffe referred to as "black palladium" or "black palladiotype." This terminology was applied by O'Keeffe to prints that were characterized by strong, neutral dark tones, and were distinct from tonally-softer platinum prints. While the majority of this image is rendered in expertly-modulated mid-tones, it is punctuated by the startling black of the dark areas. A slight reversal of tones in the very blackest areas suggests that the print was either intentionally solarized by Stieglitz during processing, or intentionally overexposed during printing. In either case, the overall effect of the print is dramatic. When viewed without framing glass, the print's high level of detail, and its illusion of three-dimensionality, are remarkable. When viewed closely in raking light, the surface of the image shows a very slight unevenness in the matte finish. This may be due to the print having been stacked in a box with other prints. It may also be possible that Stieglitz waxed the surface of this print, as he frequently did. A small portion of the print's upper right margin corner is missing, but only a tiny portion of the image is affected. The print is dry-mounted somewhat unevenly to thin board. The board is very slightly larger than the print, and the dry-mounting tissue extends past the edges of the print. The mount is very possibly newer than the print, as evidenced by the relatively crisp white appearance of the reverse.
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

The series of nude studies that Alfred Stieglitz began of Georgia O’Keeffe in 1918 represents his only prolonged, and ultimately most significant, work with the female form.  The image offered here, with its bold composition and clean lines, is pure Modernism.  Its austere aesthetic does not negate its erotic charge. 

O’Keeffe’s and Stieglitz’s romantic relationship was in first flower when this picture was made.  The two had met in 1915, and then began a gradually intensifying correspondence that culminated in O’Keeffe’s move to New York City in June of 1918.  Stieglitz’s consuming desire for O’Keeffe did not blind him to her talent as an artist or to the importance of her work.  With the help of his brother Lee, Stieglitz set O’Keeffe up in her own sky-lit apartment/studio on East 59th Street, where she could pursue her painting without distraction, and without the burden of paying rent.  It was there that he began to photograph her, as O’Keeffe later recounted, ‘with a kind of heat and excitement’ (O’Keeffe: A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz, unpaginated).  As O’Keeffe’s and Stieglitz’s relationship became more physical, the photographs became more intimate. 

While eroticism and desire are present in these pictures, Stieglitz never failed to execute them with his characteristic technical and aesthetic skill.  This dedication extended to the prints he produced, usually on palladium or platinum paper with a smooth matte surface and a long tonal range capable of rendering the subtlest shifts in texture and shade.  The palladium print offered here is a prime example.  A slight reversal of tones in the dark areas suggests that Stieglitz may have solarized the print very slightly during processing to enhance its dramatic affect. 

In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates only three examples of this image aside from the print offered here: at the National Gallery of Art, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and in a private collection—all platinum prints.