Alfred Stieglitz - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Margolis, Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Work: A Pictorial Guide
    Taschen, Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Work: The Complete Illustrations 1903-1917
    both for all plates
    Green, Camera Work: A Critical Anthology for a selection of plates

  • Catalogue Essay

    Artists include: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Karl F. Struss, George H. Seeley, Clarence H. White, Robert Demachy, Gertrude Käsebier, Heinrich Kuehn, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Anne W. Brigman, Baron Adolph DeMeyer and others. Reproductions included of works by artists exhibited at '291' including PabloPicasso, Paul Cézanne, HenriMatisse, FrancisPicabia and Marius De Zayas.

    Alfred Stieglitz, photographer and promoter of the sacred cause of photography, edited and published the photographic quarterly journal Camera Work. Called “the most beautiful of all photographic magazines,” the 50 volumes containing 559 illustrations were published between 1903 and 1917. The set of Camera Work being offered not only contains a visual record of the achievements of the progressive photographers in whom Stieglitz believed, it is also a compilation of the aesthetic theories of modern photography and the newly-formed avant-garde in painting, sculpture, and criticism.

    Camera Work’s duel purposes were to serve as a forum for the Photo-Secession, an invitation-only group that Stieglitz founded in 1902 to establish photography as a fine art, and to build an appreciative audience for their work. This was achieved primarily through the use of photogravures to sumptuously reproduce the photographs of the Photo-Secessionists as well as through the publication of articles on the modern art of photography. Stieglitz stated in his announcement of the new journal, “It is my intention to reproduce the best examples of all ‘schools,’ both American and foreign, in a style which will make the magazine of great value for its pictures alone...” And with this he succeeded, for the glory of Camera Work is the illustrations.

    Some of the prints in Camera Work are halftones (both monochrome and color) some are collotype, but the large majority are photogravures. Photogravures are known for their warmth and depth of the dark areas and their slightly granular surface. Hand-pulled and printed on Japan tissue, the visual quality of Camera Work’s photogravures are superlative and once under glass, it is difficult to distinguish a photogravure from a platinum print.

    For Stieglitz the photogravure was, in its own right, the artistic equivalent of an original photographic print. He demanded perfection and carefully supervised their printing and mounting. William Innes Homer, in his book Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession, goes as far to state that Stieglitz even retouched blemishes by hand before mailing, while Dorothy Norman in her memoir on Stieglitz said that he personally tipped in each of the illustrations. When a shipment of prints did not arrive in Brussels for a Photo-Secession exhibition, a selection of photogravures from the journal were displayed in its place.

    The first volume of Camera Work, dated January 1903, was issued in December of 1902. There were over 600 subscribers. Artist-photographer Edward Steichen designed the cover: a green-grey background with the magazine’s title, issue number, and date in an Art Nouveau style typeface that was created specifically for the journal. Full credit was given to Stieglitz as editor and publisher.

    By 1910 Stieglitz broadened the scope of Camera Work to include both reproductions of, and articles on modern painting and drawing. This transition also was reflected in his New York gallery, which had been known as the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession until 1908 when he changed the name to ‘291’. In 1911 Stieglitz devoted a double issue to reproductions of Auguste Rodin’s drawings and analyses of Rodin’s, Paul Cézanne’s and Pablo Picasso’s work. The shift to publish photography along with the other arts led to the loss of the journal’s subscriber base. By 1912 the number of subscriptions had dropped to 304, and by 1915 to thirty-seven.

    In volume 48 Stieglitz published the work of a young photographer, Paul Strand, whose photographic vision characterized the aesthetic shift from Pictorialism to Modernism. Strand denounced the soft focus and romantic idealization of the Pictorialists and instead presented unrelenting closeups of people on the street and abstractions of everyday forms. The final volume of Camera Work was published inJune 1917. It too was devoted almost entirely to Strand’s photographs. Soon afterwards, Stieglitz realized that he could no longer afford to publish Camera Work or to run ‘291’.

    Upon closing ‘291’ Stieglitz sold most of his unsold copies of Camera Work to a ragpicker for the value of the rag paper on which they were printed. The rest he either destroyed or gave away. Most of the copies in existence have remained in, or originated from the collections of the original subscribers.



Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly

New York: Alfred Stieglitz, 1903-1917. A set of 50 volumes, including Numbers 1-49/50 (1903-1917), a Special Steichen Supplement (April 1906), bound later, and two Special Numbers (August 1912 and June 1913). 558 illustrations in photogravure, halftone, color halftone, collotype and letterpress. Numbers 1-49/50 and both Special Numbers with original gray covers. Accompanied by the pamphlet, Photo-Secessionism and Its Opponents/ Another Letter-The Sixth published by Stieglitz in 1910.
Each Volume approximately 12 1/2 x 9 1/8 x 1/2 in. (31.8 x 23.2 x 1.3 cm)
Plates various dimensions

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $122,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
+ 1 212 940 1245


2 October 2012
New York