Alfred Stieglitz, Old & New, New York, Photogravure from Camera Work 1910
ALFRED STIEGLITZ (1864-1946) USA
Old & New, New York 1910
Photogravure from Camera Work, Oak frame in the Arts & Crafts style
Signed: Alfred Stieglitz Old & New, New York, RMG #1081.30 (all in pencil on back)
Image: H: 8” x W: 6 1/4”
Page size: H: 11” x W: 7 7/8”
Framed: H: 15 ¼” x 11 ¼”
Alfred Stieglitz was an American photographer who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an acceptable art form alongside painting and sculpture. Many of his photographs are known for appearing like those other art forms, and he is also known for his marriage to painter Georgia O’Keeffe, most famous for her large-scale paintings of flowers.
Stieglitz was born the eldest of six children in Hoboken, New Jersey and raised in a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. His father moved with his family to Germany in 1881. The next year, Stieglitz began studying mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin and soon switched to photography. Traveling through the European countryside with his camera, he took many photographs of peasants working on the Dutch seacoast and undisturbed nature within Germany’s Black Forest and won prizes and attention throughout Europe in the 1880s.
From 1893 to 1896, Stieglitz was editor of American Amateur Photographer magazine; however, his editorial style proved to be brusque, autocratic and alienating to many subscribers. After being forced to resign, Stieglitz turned to the New York Camera Club (which was later renamed The Camera Club of New York and is in existence to this day) and retooled its newsletter into a serious art periodical known as Camera Notes. He announced that every published image would be a picture, not a photograph – a statement that allowed Stieglitz to determine which was which.
Big camera clubs that were the vogue in America at the time did not satisfy him; in 1902 he organized an invitation-only group, which he dubbed the Photo-Secession, to force the art world to recognize photography “as a distinctive medium of individual expression.” Among its members were Edward Steichen, Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence H. White and Alvin Langdon Coburn. Also in 1902 he ceased being editor of Camera Notes and in 1903 started a new independent journal of his own, Camera Work. Photo-Secession held its own exhibitions and its work was published Camera Work, which became the pre-eminent quarterly photographic journal of its day, although in later years its popularity declined markedly and it ceased publication in 1917.
From 1905 to 1917, Stieglitz managed the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue (which came to be known as 291). In 1910, Stieglitz was invited to organize a show at Buffalo’s Albright Art Gallery, which set attendance records. He was insistent that “photographs look like photographs,” so that the medium of photography would be considered with its own aesthetic credo and so separate photography from other fine arts such as painting, thus defining photography as a fine art for the first time. This approach by Stieglitz to photography gained the term “straight photography” in contrast to other forms of photography such as “pictorial photography” which practiced manipulation of the image pre and/or post exposure.
In the 1930s, Stieglitz presided over two non-commercial New York City galleries, The Intimate Gallery and An American Place. It was at An American Place that he formed his friendship with the great 20th century photographer Ansel Adams. Adams displayed many prints in Stieglitz’s gallery, corresponded with him and also photographed Stieglitz on occasion. Stieglitz was a great philanthropist and sympathizer with his fellow human beings. He once received a phone call on one of Adams’s visits. A man wanted to show Stieglitz some work. He invited him over, looked at the prints, looked at the man in a rather disheveled state of affairs and looked at the work again. He then offered to buy one of the paintings, wrote him a check for $150, gave him five dollars and told him to get something good to eat.
Alfred Stieglitz, Old & New, New York, Photogravure from Camera Work 1910
MIZI OTTEN (1884-1955) Vienna, Austria, later New York, NY
RENA ROSENTHAL New York
Enameled cover plaque with a “Fantasy interior scene” mounted in a leather covered wood box c. 1925-30
Marks: M.O.(on enamel lower left), RENA (Rena Rosenthal) on back of box
H: 1 5/8″ x W: 7 3/4″ x D: 3 3/4″
Mizi Otten was born in Vienna in 1884. At an early age she knew that she wanted to be an artist. Despite the objections of her parents, who thought it unbecoming for their daughter to paint, she attended art school, studying painting and decorative arts in Vienna and Munich. After studying at the School of Art for Women and Girls and the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna, she went on to produce designs for the Wiener Werkstätte in all areas of applied art: jewellery, metalwork, textiles, fashion, enamels, and commercial graphics. From 1920 she also designed large-format enamels. She was a member of the Neukunstgruppe (New Art Group) and the Austrian Werkbund and took part in all the major Wiener Werkstätte exhibitions, including the 1908 Kunstschau, the 1915 Fashion Exhibition, the 1925 Paris Exposition, the 1925 Deutsche Frauenkunst Exhibition and the 1930 Werkbund Exhibition.
By 1925 her work was considered of such exceptional quality that it was included in the Austrian pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris. She won the silver medal for enameling. Among the many attendees at this prestigious and historically significant exposition was Rena Rosenthal, an important American dealer whose New York gallery specialized in contemporary German and Austrian decorative arts. She and several other dealers purchased Otten’s work and began selling it in the United States. Twelve years later she again won the silver medal for enamels at the International Exposition in Paris. With the threat of war looming, she immigrated to the United States in 1938. By the time she arrived in New York, her work was already well known in this country.
The year 1939 brought the artist tremendous exposure throughout the United States. Five enamels were juried into the Eighth National Ceramic Exhibition in Syracuse, nine works were shown in the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Denver, and five works were included in the prestigious Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. By 1940 Otten was firmly established as a prominent enamel artist in the United States. She went on to participate in three more of the Syracuse Ceramic Nationals—in 1940, 1941, and 1948. Her work was shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the early 1940s. In February 1944 a profile of Otten was published in Craft Horizons. The artist discussed how her style in enameling had changed since she had come to the United States. She stated that Americans preferred a more naturalistic approach, as compared to the more abstract style she had developed in Vienna. She was happy to embrace this new approach to enameling, however, and found tremendous satisfaction in her work. In 1950 she and Kathe Berl cowrote and self-published a manual on enameling technique entitled The Art of Enameling; or, Enameling Can Be Fun, which was one of the earliest how-to books on the subject to appear in this country.
*** Prior to emigrating to the US in 1938 and while in Vienna, Mizi Otten used her European name, Mitzi Otten-Friedmann.
Rena Rosenthal (1880–1966) was a trend-setting American retailer and businesswoman.
Rena Rosenthal was a promoter of applied arts in the modernist style whose patronage helped launch the careers of such noted designers as Donald Deskey, Tommi Parzinger, Ernst Schwadron and Russel Wright. She established the Austrian Workshop,later Rena Rosenthal Studio and then Rena Rosenthal Gallery. She retailed exclusive handcrafted glass, porcelain, fabric, metal and wood objects for home adornment through her shop at 520 (later 438) Madison Avenue. Many of these items were sourced in her father’s and husband’s native Austria; her shop distributed wares from the Wiener Werkstätte and from the Viennese designer Karl Hagenauer. She introduced the work of Austrian enamel artist Mizi Otten to North America, and was an early promoter of English potter and painter T. S. Haile. She loaned German pottery and Austrian metalwork items to the Worcester Art Museum’s third annual exhibit of modern decorative arts, in 1929. While she is known now principally for her exclusive retail shop (regular advertisements were seen in House & Garden and Harpers magazines), her business was listed over the years in New York directories under “Painters & Decorators” and “Gift Shops”, and in Chicago under “Art Goods.” Rena Rosenthal was an influential arbiter of taste and fashion in the interior decorating world, particularly during the introduction of modernism to North America. She handled art works that ended up in collections of notable individuals like Geoffrey Beene and institutions such as the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.