Back on the trail with Georgia O’Keefe, again with Ansel Adams now from two posts ago, the Carnegie Museum of Art said she was pretty well-connected to important people in the photographic world. I wasn’t sure if that meant anything other than artistic celebrity.
It meant something beyond artistic celebrity. I’m surprised Carnegie didn’t know O’Keeffe was married to Alfred Stieglitz, an influential photographer and avant-garde art promoter who was instrumental in making photography an accepted art form before the turn of century.
In November 1898 a group of photographers in Munich, Germany, mounted an exhibit of their work in conjunction with a show of graphic prints from artists that included Edvard Munch and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
They called themselves the “Secessionists”, a term that Stieglitz latched onto for both its artistic and its social meanings. Four years later he would use this same name for a newly formed group of pictorial photographers that he organized in New York.
So anyway, he meets Georgia O’Keefe in 1916 at his gallery in New York called 291. He had seen a portfolio of her charcoal drawings and was so impressed he held an exhibition of her work with out even asking her if he could, I guess because he assumed an unknown artist would be thrilled to have her work on display at his gallery.
The first O’Keeffe heard about it was months later from a friend who saw her drawings. She goes to 291 to chastise him for showing her work without her permission. Stieglitz was immediately attracted to her both physically and artistically.
O’Keeffe did not immediately return the interest but eventually there’s a long soap opera story about their torrid affair on his Wiki link. He leaves his wife but it was six years before he could divorce her because she and her brothers caused legal complications on purpose.
Much of his photography inspired her work and she was his muse. And a free-spirited one at that. She would go out West for months to paint while he stayed in New York doing photography and art promotion. They were married in 1924 and stayed that way until he died in 1946.
I didn’t want to spend the entire post talking about Stieglitz but he probably deserves a post of his own, so this will have to do. Besides, I learned more about O’Keeffe from his Wiki page than I could find anywhere else.
NOTE: The next post really is going to be about Georgia O’Keefe.