National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Georgia O'Keeffe--Hands Alfred Stieglitz (artist)
American, 1864 - 1946
Georgia O'Keeffe--Hands, 1919
palladium print
sheet: 25.7 x 20.2 cm (10 1/8 x 7 15/16 in.)
Gift of The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation in honor of Georgia O'Keeffe and on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art
1990.117.2
Not on View
From the Tour: Modern Portraits in Photography
Object 1 of 13

Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) spent much of his career establishing a dialogue between advanced photography, painting, and sculpture, and his more than three hundred photographs of the painter Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986) count as a signal contribution to this long-term enterprise. Two years after opening an exhibition space, the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (Gallery "291"), in 1905, Stieglitz began showing modern art there as well. Drawings, paintings, and sculpture by Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Constantin Brancusi, among others, influenced Stieglitz in his thinking about photography. These artists, significantly, all made or worked from photographs.

Stieglitz's decision to consider his photographs of O'Keeffe's hands "portraits" of her in their own right, rather than simply studies for a larger composition, is certainly indebted to the sculptural fragments made by Rodin and pursued to the point of abstraction by Rodin's one-time assistant Brancusi. Yet Stieglitz cultivated here above all the sense of photography as fragmentary, a partial viewing that lends itself to juxtaposition and serial development. Stieglitz called his ongoing studies of O'Keeffe a "composite portrait," meaning one that developed over time, piece by piece. This closely framed view of ecstatically clawing hands, sinewy fingers pressing into flesh, gives just one aspect of O'Keeffe's multifaceted personality as shaped through this portrait series.

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