ALFRED STIEGLITZ: A Biography by Richard Whelan

ALFRED STIEGLITZ: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A solid, straightforward biography of one of the pioneering forces of early 20th century American art and photography. Whelan's (Robert Caps, 1985) account anchors Alfred Stieglitz's (1864-1946) place in the changing artistic, social, and political context of his time. Stieglitz emerges first as an indefatigable champion of photography as a fine art; as a promoter of Photo-Secessionist photographers like Edward Steichen, Clarence White, and Gertrude K„sebier, as well as himself, he also played a vital role in establishing the preeminence of straight photography. As if that was not enough, in the years before the famous Armory Show of 1913, Stieglitz's small gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue was essentially the only place in America where the art of Picasso, Matisse, and other European modernists could be viewed. But Stieglitz's commitment was always to the American photographer and artist. At ""291"" and his subsequent galleries, Stieglitz promoted the work of young American modernists like John Marin, Marsden Hartley, and, of course, Georgia O'Keeffe. In Whelan's account, Stieglitz comes across as a passionate but difficult autocrat whose single-mindedness and stubbornness in large part accounted for his great achievements but, at the same time, alienated him from some of his closest friends and followers, like Steichen and Paul Strand. The book's only serious flaw results from Whelan's (blessedly infrequent) forays into psychoanalysis--Stieglitz's photographs of attractive women are used as a barometer of his mental state and, particularly, his libido. Nevertheless, we are led through Stieglitz's romantic frustrations and flirtations: his long loveless marriage to his conventional wife Emmy, his well-known relationships with O'Keeffe and Dorothy Norman, and numerous crushes on his friends' wives and, in his later years, adolescent girls. Apart from being a first-rate biography, Whelan's study provides a lively cultural history of Stieglitz's day.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 1995
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"