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  • Provenance

    From the artist to the Collection of Georgia O'Keeffe
    Gifted to Doris Bry, New York
    Private Collection
    Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    Greenough, Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and his New York Galleries, fig. 156

  • Catalogue Essay

    While Georgia O'Keeffe was a favored subject of Stieglitz, the present lot is one of only a few known prints of this image.

    The fabled union of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the great artistic partnerships in American history. When they met in 1916, Stieglitz was 52 and
    already a man of many accomplishments: photographer, publisher, gallery director, champion of American Modernism and world famous promoter of photography as fine art. On the other hand, O’Keeffe was an unknown artist, teaching in Texas and only 28 years old. This portrait was taken in the first years of their infamous romance. It is a performance piece staged by the photographer and acted out by his willing muse.

    In 1917, after mounting his second exhibition of O’Keeffe’s art, Stieglitz closed his gallery, 291, and mailed the final issue of his legendary art journal Camera Work to its 37 remaining subscribers. He then proceeded to undergo a complete rebirth of both his art and his life. The agent of this change was his passionate collaboration with O’Keeffe. Describing this miraculous life encounter, Stieglitz wrote to his friend the painter Arthur Dove the following:

    Since I saw you I have been living as I never lived before. – I have gone through a great deal – some very painful hours – but all intensely real. – O’Keeffe is a constant source of wonder to me - like Nature itself – & all fine humans – there are some. – I know some. _ And every moment I am full of gratefulnessthat I am a great fortunate. – O’Keeffe & I are One in a real sense…..Every moment is a happy eternity – sometimes – rarely – the moment is of intensest pain – but even that turns into a great glory. – We are both either intensely sane or mad children. – It makes no difference.

    In June of 1918 Stieglitz left his wife of twenty-five years and moved with O’Keeffe into an apartment in Manhattan. It is in that small apartment that this rare and beautiful platinum palladium print was taken. Creating it was an act in which the photographer and the subject are “One in a real sense” - an artistic sense: He the director, she the embodiment of their primal passion. It is an “intensely sane” act full of wonder like “Nature itself.” Evocative planes of white, grey and black permeate the space infusing it with an other-worldliness. In one hand she holds a phallic-looking African spoon (exhibited by Stieglitz four years earlier at 291 and illustrated as pl. 45 in Greenough, Modern Art), with the other she clenches her breast. Towards the end of her life, O’Keeffe recalled those early photo sessions: “I was photographed with a kind of heat and excitement and in a way wondered what it was all about.” O’Keeffe gave the photograph that is being offered in the present lot to Doris Bry who
    was O’Keeffe’s assistant after Stieglitz’s death and later her dealer and agent as well as friend. Writing about this infamous series that Stieglitz took of his lover (who became his second wife) Bry said:

    Although the Stieglitz portrait of O’Keeffe inevitably has its roots in the photographer and his subject, the series of prints transcend the two individuals concerned and become a moving symbol of the range of possibilities life, and beauty inherent in human relationships.

    Stieglitz first publicly exhibited the pictures he’d taken of O’Keeffe in a retrospective at the Anderson Galleries in Manhattan in 1921. Three years later they married one another. In 1946 America’s greatest photographer died at the age of 82. As lovers he and his second wife’s commitment sometimes faltered, as artists Stieglitz and O’Keeffe were each other’s strongest allies. In 1978 O’Keeffe wrote “I believe it was the work that kept me with him—though I loved him as a human being, I put up with what seemed to me a good deal of contradictory nonsense because of what seemed clear and bright and wonderful.”

IMPORTANT PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. ANTHONY TERRANA

12

Georgia O'Keeffe

1919
Platinum palladium print.
9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in. (24.1 x 19.4 cm)

Estimate
$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $302,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
[email protected]
+ 1 212 940 1245

Important Photographs from the Collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana

2 & 3 April 2013
New York