National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries

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Introduction | 291 Gallery | Anderson Galleries and Intimate Gallery | An American Place

The Anderson Galleries and the Intimate Gallery

Stieglitz, Dancing TreesIn 1921, after four years without an exhibition space, Stieglitz borrowed rooms from Mitchell Kennerley, owner of the Anderson Galleries on Park Avenue, and mounted a show of his own work. In the following years he organized exhibitions there of his art and that of O'Keeffe, as well as work by other American artists. In the fall of 1925, seeking a more permanent presence, Stieglitz rented a small room from Kennerley that he called the Intimate Gallery and mounted monographic exhibitions there for four years. Stieglitz structured the Intimate Gallery as a cooperative space to encourage a sense of community among artists, to diminish the idea of art as a commodity, and to establish a more personal relationship between artist and patron. Insisting that he receive no remuneration, he stipulated that a portion of the proceeds from most sales be applied to a fund that went to cover the rental fee of the gallery.

Alfred Stieglitz, 1921-1924

In 1921, 1923, and 1924 Stieglitz held monographic exhibitions of his photographs at the Anderson Galleries. Among his most celebrated works were portraits of O'Keeffe, who had moved to New York in 1918 and begun to live with Stieglitz shortly thereafter. These photographs demonstrate his careful study of many artists he had shown at 291, including Rodin, Matisse, Cézanne, and Picasso. In addition, Stieglitz's photographs from this time revealed a significant influence of O'Keeffe's own art. Like her, he became entranced with the American landscape and for almost the first time in his career began to photograph the trees, hills, and clouds around his family's summer home in Lake George, New York.

Georgia O'Keeffe, 1923-1929

O'Keeffee, Autumn Trees--The MapleO'Keeffe's art also changed considerably during the 1920s. Stieglitz exhibited her work at the Anderson Galleries in 1923 and 1924 and thereafter in several solo exhibitions at the Intimate Gallery. In 1923 when she exhibited her highly inventive abstractions of the late 1910s and early 1920s they were subjected to extensive Freudian interpretations. In response, O'Keeffe tried to make her art as objective as possible and, as in Autumn Trees--The Maple, turned to photography to ground her work in the real world. Through her close association with Stieglitz as well as other photographers, she saw the simple but effective visual strategies they used to infuse their depictions of everyday reality with a newfound intensity. For example, she saw how photographs could use lenses of different focal lengths to compress space, thus charging each plane of the picture with equal weight and energy. Intrigued by the sharp lines and flat, clean surface of a photograph, she rejected the short, textured brushstrokes she had used earlier in her art. These elements combined to give her paintings an ambiguous quality: they are clearly derived from a vision related to photography, yet strangely and often elusively different from it.

The Seven Americans, 1925-1929

Marin, Lower Manhattan In Alfred Stieglitz Presents Seven Americans, at the Anderson Galleries in the spring of 1925, the photographer united for the first time the artists whom he would champion for the rest of his life. With work by Hartley, Marin, O'Keeffe, Strand, and himself, as well as Charles Demuth and Arthur Dove, this exhibition and subsequent ones he mounted in the Intimate Gallery from the fall of 1925 to the spring of 1929 demonstrated the shared vision, subject matter, and approach of the "Seven Americans." All were deeply committed to the creation of a new art that expressed contemporary American life. Exploring a wide variety of subjects, including landscapes, cityscapes, and abstract portraits, these artists also extensively experimented with the materials of their art: Dove constructed collages composed of rulers, denim, or sticks, and used both oil and metallic paint on canvas, wood, and glass; Marin made collages using bits of string and paper; and both Stieglitz and Strand explored several kinds of photographic prints.

Introduction | 291 Gallery | Anderson Galleries and Intimate Gallery | An American Place