Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907. Cloride, 4 x 5"

The year 1908 saw the Realism of The Eight established, but it also inaugurated Alfred Stieglitz’s (1864-1946) exhibitions of the radical European moderns. Stieglitz represented a new type of Jewish-German descent whose parents had immigrated at the time of the Civil War. By 1900, the massive waves of immigration to America began to affect the art scene, giving it a more international character and making the port of New York a more cosmopolitan cultural center. Stieglitz “saw himself and his artists as workers in the cause of creative freedom, and his “291” gallery took on a symbolic character” (Brown et al. 378). By introducing innovative art and changing the nature of its patronage, Alfred Stieglitz did more than anyone in America to transform this state of affairs (Arnason 421). Almost single-handedly, he turned the gallery of contemporary art into a gallery of modern art. 

A photographer and gallery director, Stieglitz launched his first vanguard project, the magazine Camera Work, in 1903. Naturalism served Stieglitz, as it had the Ashcan artists, as a way of breaking clear of the beaux-arts style (Altschiler 72). Within a few years, after making contact with Leo and Gertrude Stein in Paris and taking advice from the photographer Edward Steichen, Stieglitz was fired with a passion that gave a new direction to the little gallery he had opened in 1905 on 291 Fifth Avenue. Stieglitz introduced European moderns by exhibiting their work in his gallery and by doing so opened a fresh world of art to many Americans. Eventually, Stieglitz turned away from the European vanguard to promote the unrecognized American avant-garde. He began to add “American” to everything he did. “He billed his wife’s 1923 show as ‘Georgia O’Keefe American’ and called the large exhibition that he curated two years later at the Anderson Galleries ‘Seven Americans’” (Altschuler 69.“ His Intimate Gallery, a successor to “291,“ was inaugurated in 1925 as an “American Room” and featured the work of O’Keefe, Dove, Hartley, Stieglitz himself, and other Americans (Joachimides and Rosenthal 157). Henri taught and inspired young artists to experiment and reach beyond learned convention to paint “life” as they saw it. Stieglitz promoted and encouraged these same artists by making their work available to the public. Following 1908, a number of exhibitions opened in New York helping to prepare the public for the newest art. In this continuous process, the Armory Show marks a point of acceleration, lifting people out of the narrowness of complacent provincial tastes and compelling them to judge American art by a world standard. (continue)

Ashcan School | George Bellows | Ernest Lawson | Everett Shinn | George Luks | William Glackens | Robert Henri | John Sloan | Maurice Prendergast | Georgia O'Keefe | Charles Sheeler

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Linda M. Larson.  All rights reserved.
Revised: 29 Nov 2000 14:30:28 -0500 .