The Hand of Man, 1902

The Hand of Man, 1902
large-format photogravure on tissue, mounted on board, printed c. 1910
signed, titled, dated [twice] and annotated 'very rare proof' by the artist in pencil (margin); signed, titled, dated, annotated 'original photogravure' and inscribed 'For D.S.N.' by the artist in ink (mount, verso)
image: 9 1/2 x 12 1/2 in. (24 x 31.7 cm.)
sheet: 14 x 18 1/2 in. (35.5 x 47 cm.)
mount: 16 x 20 in. (40.7 x 50.9 cm.)
Directly from the artist to Dorothy Norman (1905–1997);
Amy Wolf Fine Art, New York;
acquired from the above by the present owner.
Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Work, New York, no. 1, January 1903, p. 47 & no. 36, October 1911, pl. XIII.
Waldo Frank et al. (eds.), America & Alfred Stieglitz: A Collective Portrait, Doubleday, Doran & Company, Garden City, 1934, pl. XXV, B.
Dorothy Norman, Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer, Random House/Aperture, New York, 1960, pl. X.
Doris Bry, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1965, pl. 7.
Sarah Greenough & Juan Hamilton, Alfred Stieglitz: Photographs & Writings, Bulfinch Press/National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999, pl. 15.
Sarah Greenough, Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, Volume One 1886-1922, Abrams/National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002, pp. 164-66, cat. nos. 277-280.

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Shlomi Rabi
Shlomi Rabi

Lot Essay

Along with The Terminal (see Lot 132), The Hand of Man was considered by Stieglitz to be one of his most seminal images. Made while standing on the back of a train as it entered the rail yard of the Long Island City station (Greenough, The Key Set, p. 164), the image has long been widely interpreted, always with a view to the symbolic nature of the machine and its eventual permutations in man’s hands. Made in 1902, Stieglitz immediately produced an exhibition print for the show at the National Arts Club in New York that coincided with the founding of the Photo-Secession, all in the same year of 1902. He then went on to include the image in the inaugural issue of Camera Work in January, 1903.

Mounted, signed and titled examples are extremely rare.

Greenough locates nine large-format photogravures of The Hand of Man in the following Stieglitz collections: The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., The Art Institute of Chicago; Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven; Carl Van Vechten Gallery, Fisk University, Nashville; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Greenough, The Key Set, p. 165).

The present example benefits from excellent provenance, coming from the collection of Dorothy Norman. Norman and Stieglitz enjoyed a close relationship beginning in the year they met, 1927, when she visited his art gallery, the Intimate Gallery on Park Avenue. Stieglitz became her mentor, encouraging her own interest in taking photographs and Norman supported and helped raise funds for Stieglitz to open his third and final gallery, An American Place, in 1932. Norman oversaw most of the gallery's operations, and in 1973 published the biography 'Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer', based mostly on notes she made during her time working at the gallery. The two remained close until Stieglitz's death in 1946.

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