Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946)
Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946)

Portrait of Georgia, No.1, 1923

Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946)
Portrait of Georgia, No.1, 1923
gelatin silver contact print, flush–mounted on card, mounted on larger card
initialed 'AS', dated '1920?' and annotated 'Coomara' by the artist in pencil, inscribed 'Portrait of O'Keeffe by Stieglitz/ given to Dorothy Norman/ by Dona Luisa/ Coomaraswamy/ after A.S.'s death/ in 1946' in pencil by Dorothy Norman on affixed original mount fragments and credited, titled and dated 'printed c. 1920' on affixed museum label (secondary mount, verso)
image/sheet/flush mount: 4 5/8 x 3 5/8 (11.8 x 9.2 cm.)
secondary mount: 13 3/8 x 10 1/4 in. (34 x 26 cm.)
Gifted by the artist to Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877–1947);
gifted by the wife of the above to Dorothy Norman (1905–1997), c. 1946;
acquired from the above by Light Gallery, New York;
acquired from the above by John M. Bransten, San Francisco, 1972;
by descent to the present owner.
Sarah Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, Volume Two 1923-1937, Abrams/National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002, cat. no. 920, p. 546.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, A History of Photography from CA Collections, February 9–April 30, 1989, #4.89.

Lot Essay

In 1916, Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe embarked upon a personal and professional collaboration that resulted in an era-defining relationship. Stieglitz became O’Keeffe’s mentor and benefactor while she thrived in the role of his muse and confidant. The ensuing period, one of shared passion and mutual influence, was the most prolific, innovative and visionary period for both artists.

Made in 1923 during the height of their love affair, and the year before they wed, Portrait of Georgia, No. 1 is poetically linked to Portrait of Georgia No. 2 and No. 3, both of which are photographs of clouds from his Songs of the Sky series (fig. 2 and 3). Stieglitz himself indicated that the images of clouds paralleled his inner state; the inclusion of this portrait further reveals his devotion. Completely smitten, Stieglitz wrote that, 'O’Keeffe is a constant source of wonder to me, like Nature itself' (as quoted in Arrowsmith and West, eds., Two Lives: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: A Conversation in Paintings and Photographs, Callaway Editions/The Phillips Collection, 1992, p. 56).

The present lot was a gift by the artist to philosopher and art historian Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, then curator of Indian and Islamic art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Throughout the 1920s, Stieglitz fought for photography’s institutional recognition as a legitimate art form worthy of museum accession; Coomaraswamy was an early supporter of this effort, having seen Stieglitz’s exhibition of 116 photographs at the Anderson Galleries in 1922. Deeply impressed, Coomaraswamy asked him to consider donating ten works to the museum's Print Department. Stieglitz obliged, ultimately choosing twenty-seven works, with the stipulation that they exhibit them at least once every five years; the museum agreed.

Sarah Greenough’s Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set locates two additional prints of this image; one in The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and another in The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City. This particular print, re-gifted to Dorothy Norman by Coomaraswamy’s widow, was exhibited in 1989 in ‘A History of Photography from California Collections’ at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. That exhibition was the first large-scale curatorial endeavor at SFMoMA by Sandra S. Phillips and was in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of photography.

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