Alfred Stieglitz (Photography at the Musée D’Orsay
Alfred Stieglitz (Hoboken, New York State, 1864 New York, 1946) remains celebrated in his own country, and was internationally famous in his time. He was the founder of Photo-Secession and the editor of Camera Work magazine, which championed photography as a fine art. Later, he mounted pioneering exhibitions of European avant-garde art, from Cézanne to Picasso, in his gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue, New York.
This books publication coincides with a major Stieglitz retrospective at the Musée dOrsay, accompanied by an exhibition of the Stieglitz prints in its own collection. It includes images from his Pictorial period (1890-1910), particularly some strikingly impressionistic views of New York (gravures from Camera Work), capturing the citys phenomenal growth at the turn of the century. Stieglitzs later work is magnificently represented in prints recently donated by the Georgia OKeefe Foundation. These sharply focused and highly descriptive works communicate the photographers distinctive approach to reality, enriched by inner experience. The admirable nude shots of the artist Georgia OKeefe (later Stieglitzs wife) are highly original close-ups, charged with an eroticism that was startlingly new in American photography at the time. Stieglitzs cloud photographs (which he termed “equivalents”) taken at the family property at Lake George after 1923, were meant to be viewed in negative to heighten their abstract character.
Towards the end of his life Stieglitz lovingly photographed the trees at Lake George, as symbols of natures endurance. Although he worked with two very different approaches, his aim was always to express a personal vision through flawless technique. He never tried to use his photographs to further a political or social cause. They had an impact on photographers as varied as Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Harry Callahan, and testify to a resolutely personal, but deeply human, experience.
The photographic collection of the Musée dOrsay was assembled in the late 1970s when the museum was created. It now contains over 55,000 prints and negatives ranging from the early days of photography to 1914. A permanent gallery was opened in Autumn 2002 to display this outstanding set of works. The Photography at Orsay series, co-published by 5 Continents Editions and the Musée dOrsay, accompanies thematic exhibitions held at the gallery. It offers an affordable set of reference works on photography written by the museums specialists and illustrated with works displayed in the exhibitions, many of which are reproduced for the first time.
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