Alfred Stieglitz - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Argos Ltd. in association with Phillips New York, 4 November 1978, lot 164
    Stephen White's Gallery of Photography Inc., Los Angeles

  • Exhibited

    A History of Photographs from California Collections, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 9 February- 30 April 1989

  • Literature

    Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, Volume One cat no.212
    Norman, Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer, pl. 20
    Peterson, Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Notes, pl. 77 there dated 1899
    University of California, Valiant Knights of Daguerre: Selected Critical Essays on Photography and Profiles of Photographic Pioneers, p. 67

  • Catalogue Essay

    Isolated on a dune and poised against an infinite atmospheric backdrop, The Net Mender, is a late 19th-century meditation on what it is to be human. It is one of Alfred Stieglitz’s earliest masterpieces. Writing about The Net Mender in the 1899 article ‘My Favorite Picture’ Stieglitz said “It expresses the life of a young Dutch woman; every stitch in the mending of the fishing net, the very rudiment of her existence, brings forth a torrent of poetic thought in those who watch her sit there on the vast and seemingly endless dunes, toiling with a seriousness and peacefulness which is so characteristic of these sturdy people. All her hopes are concentrated in this occupation – it is her life.”

    The photograph in the current lot is a rare carbon print, taken in Holland while Stieglitz was traveling around Europe on honeymoon with his wife Emmy. Seldom do carbon prints by Stieglitz appear on the secondary market. It is a process that Stieglitz used from the mid to the late 1890s for several reasons: to enlarge his negatives (it is a
    transfer process in which an internegative is used); to make changes in the image (as he did with his 1893 image Winter Fifth Avenue); and to create atmosphere (in this particular carbon print Stieglitz utilized a brown pigment and a thick textured watercolor paper). In ‘My Favorite Picture’ Stieglitz wrote, “The picture was taken in 1984 at Katwyk.

    Taken on an 18 x 24 cm plate, with a Zeiss lens. The exhibition prints used are enlarged carbons, as the subject needs size to fully express it.” Only a few examples of The Net Mender as a carbon print are known to be in existence, including one in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and another in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. True to being Stieglitz’s “favorite picture”, the work was exhibited nineteen times (London, Berlin, New York,Philadelphia, Munich, Boston, Pittsburgh, Glasgow, The Hague, Dresden and Buffalo, among others) and reproduced in journals sixteen times between 1895 -1910.

    In The Key Set Sarah Greenough writes that “The photographs Stieglitz made on his 1894 European trip established him as one of the leading photographers of the time…. he utilized every tool available to transform these photographs into impressive exhibition pieces that would be immediately understood as works of art.” All great photographs by Alfred Stieglitz are as he stated “the poetic conception of the subject.” In The Net Mender, by placing the subject in the middle of an atmospheric landscape, and shooting from a low vantage point, Alfred Stieglitz presents a monumental image of the unadorned simplicity of being grounded both in nature and in work.


Mending Nets

Carbon print.
10 3/8 x 13 in. (26.4 x 33 cm)
Signed and dated in ink on the recto.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $93,750

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


New York 30 September & 1 October 2013