Georgia O'Keeffe

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  • Provenance

    From the artist; to Marjorie Content by Alfred Stieglitz, 1920s, or by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1930s
    By descent to her grandson Keith Sandberg
    Private Collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Georgia O’Keeffe: The Poetry of Things, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 17 April - 18 July 1999
    Alfred Stieglitz and His Circle: 1905-1930, Musée d’Orsay, Paris and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2004-2005; for all, another print exhibited

  • Literature

    George Eastman House, The Photography of Alfred Stieglitz: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Enduring Legacy, cat. 111
    Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, Volume One, cat. no. 556, p. 335
    Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs and Writings, pl. 43
    Lynes, Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume I, back cover and frontispiece for a variant;
    Volume II, fig. 80 for a variant
    The Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Stieglitz At Lake George, p. 49
    Texas Highways
    , ‘Georgia in Texas’, May 1995, p. 35

  • Catalogue Essay

    Among his peers, Alfred Stieglitz was known as a “prophet” due to his revolutionary vision, heralding the artistic changes that would sweep the 20th-century through his literary and commercial venues. He was one of the earliest to champion the hand-held camera, the resulting snapshots of which influenced future generations of photographers. The advantage of the hand-held camera, he argued in his essay “The Hand Camera—Its Present Importance” in 1897, lay in its ability to capture a moment in reality as it happened, adding a sense of instantaneity. It was also at his gallery “291” where Stieglitz’s astute vision was manifested in his steadfast promotion of European Modernist art as well as of American pioneers whose art would come to define the American Modernist movement. Those included Edward Steichen, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and perhaps most notably, Georgia O’Keeffe.

    Stieglitz’s portrait, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1918, was taken a year after the legendary photographer closed “291”, dissolved the Photo-Secession movement that he had championed since its inception in 1903, and ended his publication Camera Work after fourteen years. That the last show at “291” was of O’Keeffe’s work is not incidental since shortly thereafter the two artists retreated to Stieglitz’s family house in Lake George. It was there and then that Stieglitz launched one of his most notable, creative projects, taking 331 photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe over a period of twenty years, of which the current lot is one of the first examples. In keeping with his early devotion to the hand-held camera, the portraits Stieglitz took at Lake George, like Georgia O’Keeffe, 1918, and Georgia O’Keeffe, 1936, (lot 16), are casual and candid snapshots, capturing the unique nature of each moment spent together.

    The two artists first crossed paths in 1916, when a classmate of O’Keeffe’s had mailed Stieglitz, already a renowned force in the New York art world, drawings by O’Keeffe to review. Taken by the budding artist’s drawings, Stieglitz began corresponding with O’Keeffe, and the following year exhibited ten of her charcoal drawings at “291”. It was then that the two met in person for the first time. The mutual attraction between Stieglitz and O’Keeffe on physical, spiritual, artistic and emotional levels was instantaneous and intense, marking the beginning of a relationship that would last for decades. “I’m getting to like you so tremendously that it sometimes scares me,”
    O’Keeffe confessed to Stieglitz in a letter on Nov. 4, 1916, “... Having told you so much of me — more than anyone else I know — could anything else follow but that I should want you.” Stieglitz returned O’Keeffe’s ardent emotions, stating in a letter on June, 1, 1917: “How I wanted to photograph you — the hands — the mouth — & eyes — & the enveloped in black body — the touch of white — & the throat.” Georgia O’Keeffe, 1918, taken in the year the two moved in together at Lake George, beautifully depicts all of the characteristics Stieglitz cherished.

    O’Keeffe is seen nestled on a cushion on the ground, with her sketchpad and watercolors by her side. Her hands—which would later be lovingly featured in some of Stieglitz’s most indelible Modernist photographs—stand out: one pulls her legs closer to her body and thereby unassumingly draws attention to her figure; the other holds a paintbrush. Symbolically, the hands symbolize the dual roles—one of a lover and the other as an artist—that O’Keeffe had come to play in Stieglitz’s life. Similarly, her positioning by a bed of blooming flowers and lush leaves hints at the optimism each held for their burgeoning affair. The portrait embodies the reciprocated respect, admiration and affinity the two artistic legends so passionately shared.

    Marjorie Content, to whom this print was gifted, was a photographer in her own right and a close friend of both Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe.

    This print is a contact print from the artist’s 4 x 5 in. negative.

    Other prints of this image are in the collections of The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; The 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.

12

THE FACE OF MODERNISM: A PRIVATE WEST COAST COLLECTION

Georgia O'Keeffe

1918
Gelatin silver print, printed 1920s or 1930s.
3 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (8.9 x 11.4 cm)

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

sold for $182,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
vhallett@phillips.com
+ 1 212 940 1245

The Face of Modernism

4 April 2012
New York