This frank but flawed dual biography of Alfred Stieglitz, photographer, art dealer, impresario, and Georgia O'Keeffe, painter, from their meeting in 1916 to their deaths (he in 1946, she in 1986) reveals along the way the development of photography as an art form, the experience of a woman artist, and much about the studios, galleries, life style, and politics of the artistic communities in N.Y.C. and Taos in the early decades of the 20th century. Mostly, however, Eisler (Private Lives, 1986) explores the psychopathology of two intense, talented, ambitious, creative, and sexually liberated people. More a mutual exploitation—a ``collusion,'' as Eisler concedes in the last chapter—than a ``romance,'' this was an unlikely pairing. Stieglitz, short, spoiled, argumentative, a married Jewish intellectual 23 years O'Keeffe's senior, possibly a pedophile, sexually confused at the least, consecrated their relationship with a series of pornographic photos described here in considerable detail and interpreted variously as ``cunt worship'' and ``a canticle...to sexual mystery.'' Often sickly and depressed, eventually O'Keeffe found her own idiom—the giant flowers and fruits, the landscapes of Lake George where she and Stieglitz summered, even the skulls and bones she did in Taos, where she took refuge in her later years,—all interpreted sexually by reviewers however much she objected. Friends such as Sherwood Anderson, Jean Toomer, and Mabel Dodge, as well as wealthy patrons, were attracted by the couple's charm, talent, and the illusion of power, but many were alienated by their volatile nature and often scandalous sexual experimentation. For a book about visual arts, this is curiously out of focus. Eisler summarizes primary sources and major events, but also quotes minor reviews, introduces minor figures with full bios but little function in the major lives, and—in spite of the coda quoted from O'Keeffe, ``Art is a wicked thing. It is what we are''—shows only occasional relationship between the ``wicked'' art and the lives.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-26122-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.


An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.


A Los Angeles–based photographer pays tribute to a legendary musician with anecdotes and previously unseen images collected from their 25-year collaboration.

St. Nicholas (co-author: Whitney: Tribute to an Icon, 2012, etc.) first met Prince in 1991 at a prearranged photo shoot. “The dance between photographer and subject carried us away into hours of inspired photographs…and the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime.” In this book, the author fondly remembers their many professional encounters in the 25 years that followed. Many would be portrait sessions but done on impulse, like those in a burned-out Los Angeles building in 1994 and on the Charles Bridge in Prague in 2007. Both times, the author and Prince came together through serendipity to create playfully expressive images that came to represent the singer’s “unorthodox ability to truly live life in the moment.” Other encounters took place while Prince was performing at Paisley Park, his Minneapolis studio, or at venues in LA, New York, Tokyo, and London. One in particular came about after the 1991 release of Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album and led to the start of St. Nicholas’ career as a video director. Prince, who nurtured young artists throughout his career, pushed the author to “trust my instincts…expand myself creatively.” What is most striking about even the most intimate of these photographs—even those shot with Mayte Garcia, the fan-turned–backup dancer who became Prince’s wife in 1996—is the brilliantly theatrical quality of the images. As the author observes, the singer was never not the self-conscious artist: “Prince was Prince 24/7.” Nostalgic and reverential, this book—the second St. Nicholas produced with/for Prince—is a celebration of friendship and artistry. Prince fans are sure to appreciate the book, and those interested in art photography will also find the collection highly appealing.

A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-293923-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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