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  • Provenance

    Gifted from the Collection of Alfred Jarstzki, Jr. to
    The Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Robert Klein Gallery, Boston

  • Literature

    Bulfinch Press, Alfred Stieglitz, pl. 15
    Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, Volume One, cat. nos. 277-280
    Norman, Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer, pl. X
    Taschen, Photo Icons: The Story Behind the Pictures, Volume 1, p. 141
    The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographer, pl. 7

  • Catalogue Essay

    Alfred Stieglitz’s allegorical masterpiece The Hand of Man, 1902 presents a dual message about transformation and power. The image itself functions as an emotional retelling of industrial man’s surging growth and the effect of that growth upon the environment. Additionally, imbedded in the process of creating such an image, is Stieglitz’s lifelong advocacy for the art of photography: an art in which the hand of man when guided by the sensibility of an artist is capable of presenting an emotional truth using a mechanical camera.

    Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey to parents Edward and Hedwig, German Jews who had immigrated to the United States. In 1871 the family moved across the Hudson River to live in a newly built brownstone at 14 East 60th Street in the rapidly expanding Post–Civil War Manhattan. Ten years later Stieglitz’s father sold the dry goods business and took the family to Europe. Following this move, a young Stieglitz discovered his budding passion for photography, studying in Germany under Herman Wilhelm Vogel, a pioneer in photochemistry. While his family returned to New York in 1885, Stieglitz remained in Germany for another five years – during which he continued his photographic pursuits and aided the British photographer Peter Henry Emerson by translating Naturalistic Photography into German.

    Stieglitz became strongly influenced by Emerson’s attention to atmospheric effects as well as his challenging of the status quo. But unlike Emerson, who photographed
    the natural landscape as inhabited by an indigenous culture, Stieglitz, upon his return to New York, focused on the city as an emerging urban center, and with a hand-held
    camera captured his ambivalent feelings of this tremendous change. In fact, it was through the lens of a hand-held camera while standing on the back of a train as it pulled into the freight yard of the Long Island City railroad that Stieglitz photographed The Hand of Man.

    Throughout his career Stieglitz repeatedly exhibited and reproduced The Hand of Man – very likely because he saw that the complexity of forces that are represented in
    the image were also reflective of his mission in life. Central to the image is a dark train - industrial man’s awesome answer to the sovereignty of time and space. From it pours a tunnel of black smoke (slightly in front of a puff of white steam) against a heavily lit backdrop of clouds. The picture’s horizon line is vertically punctuated by smoke stakes and power-line crosses and dotted with the dark forms of seemingly windowless buildings. Glistening rail-tracks curve around the train and head of into the unseen.

    In 1902, the year The Hand of Man, was photographed, Stieglitz resigned as editor of Camera Notes and went on to found the Photo-Secession, organizing an exhibition at the National Arts Club in Manhattan. In 1903 he launched what was to become his most important journal Camera Work (1903-1917) setting the high standards by the inclusion of photogravures printed on Japanese tissue. The Hand of Man was prominently printed as a small-format photogravure in the inaugural issue of Camera Work and later (as with the present lot) printed in a larger format.

    The Hand of Man was most likely included in the retrospective of Stieglitz’s photography that he mounted at his gallery 291 during the Armory show in 1913. In 1921, he once again showed a retrospective of his work. In the exhibition catalogue he wrote: “…Every print I make, even from one negative, is a new experience, a new problem. For unless I am able to vary –add-I am not interested.” He concluded, “I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for truth my obsession.”

    Other prints of this image are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art;Library of Congress, Washington; The Art Institute of Chicago;The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

IMPORTANT PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. ANTHONY TERRANA

23

The Hand of Man

1902
Large format photogravure on Japanese tissue, printed 1910.
9 1/2 x 12 1/2 in. (24.1 x 31.8 cm)
Signed, titled and dated in pencil in the margin; printed title and date on a Museum of Modern Art collection label affixed to the reverse of the flush-mount.

Estimate
$70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $104,500

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