Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe

200 Works by European and American Modernists in the Metropolitan Museum’s Collection

John Marin (American, 1870–1953) Sun Spots, 1920. Watercolor and charcoal on paper, 16 5/8 x 19 3/4 in. (42.2 x 50.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.70.121) © 2011 Estate of John Marin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

For more than 60 years, the Alfred Stieglitz Collection has been the cornerstone of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s holdings of modern art from the first half of the 20th century. From October 13, 2011, through January 2, 2012, the Museum presented Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe, the first large-scale exhibition of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from Stieglitz’s personal collection, acquired by the Metropolitan in 1949. The exhibition featured some 200 works by major European and American modernists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi, Vasily Kandinsky, Francis Picabia, Gino Severini, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Charles Demuth, and Arthur Dove.

In addition to being a master photographer, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was a visionary promoter of modern American and European art, and he assembled a vast art collection of exceptional breadth and depth. Through a succession of influential galleries that he ran in New York City between 1905 and 1946, Stieglitz exhibited many of the most important artists of the era and collected hundreds of works of art by his contemporaries.

This was the first time since their acquisition in 1949 that the Museum’s vast holdings from the Stieglitz Collection—including many works on paper that are rarely on view—will be exhibited together.

Alfred Stieglitz played a pivotal role in the introduction of modern art into America and its subsequent development over the course of the first half of the 20th century. At his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (1905-17), known as ‘291,’ Stieglitz boldly showed the work of avant-garde European artists such as Auguste Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Picabia, Brancusi, and Severini—sometimes before it was shown anywhere else in the United States.

The first rooms of the exhibition Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe focused primarily on works by European artists. Among the highlights were:

Picasso’s Woman Ironing (1901) and

Standing Female Nude (1910),

Kandinsky’s Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II) (1912), and

Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse (1910
), as well as a suite of prints by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1890s).

The first half of the exhibition also included a room of drawings by the Mexican caricaturist Marius de Zayas, who was a pivotal advisor to Stieglitz and played a major role in organizing some of the most avant-garde exhibitions at 291 in the 1910s.

In Stieglitz’s subsequent undertakings, first in borrowed space at the Anderson Galleries (1921-25) and later at his own galleries—the Intimate Gallery (1925-29) and An American Place (1929-46)—he refocused his energy on showing and supporting contemporary American art, which was not well represented in prestigious public and private collections at the time. The latter portion of the exhibition Stieglitz and His Artists will feature works by American painters whose careers he shepherded from the 1920s to 1946 and whose work he felt epitomized the authentic American experience: Arthur Dove, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The exhibition included individual rooms devoted to the works of Charles Demuth and Marsden Hartley, including

Charles Demuth (American, 1883–1935) I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928. Oil, graphite, ink, and gold leaf on paperboard (Upson board), 35 1/2 x 30in. (90.2 x 76.2cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.59.1)

, and

Hartley’s Portrait of a German Officer (1914).

The exhibition culminated in a gallery of some 14 works by O’Keeffe, such as her iconic paintings

Black Iris (1926) and

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986) Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931. Oil on canvas, 39 7/8 x 35 7/8in. (101.3 x 91.1cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1952 (52.203).
Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931).

Among the other artists featured in the exhibition are: Gordon Craig, Henri Edmund Cross, Arthur B. Davies, Gaston Lachaise, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Diego Rivera, Paul Signac, Félicien Rops, and Abraham Walkowitz.

In addition to the paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints displayed, the exhibition will include a number of photographs by the Photo-Secessionists, as well as publications by the Stieglitz Circle, all from his personal collection.

After his death in 1946, Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, as executrix of his estate, decided which institutions would receive gifts of art from his collection. The Metropolitan Museum was very fortunate to receive the largest share of Stieglitz’s personal collection: more than 400 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints. The remaining works from his collection were distributed among the Art Institute of Chicago, Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Fisk University in Nashville, and Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven.

Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe is organized by Lisa Mintz Messinger, Associate Curator in the Museum’s Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art.

The exhibition was accompanied by a major scholarly catalogue of the entire collection, edited by Lisa Mintz Messinger, with contributions by 11 Metropolitan Museum curators, researchers, and conservators. The catalogue, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, featured 440 full-color illustrations, an introductory essay, individual essays on the artists, and entries on all 409 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at the Metropolitan.