Dada in New York: Artists in Exile, Part Two

Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp in New York

The Americanization of Dada, Part One

In an interview with Pierre Cabanne, decades after the Great War, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) explained how he became an artist and how it was that he came to be exempted from military service–and the two events were linked together. In pre-war France, a nation anticipating a war with Germany, there was a “three year law,” which allowed a young man to do one year instead of three, if he fell under certain exemptions. Feeling, as he put it, “neither militaristic nor soldierly,” Duchamp stumbled upon the fact that there were exemptions for doctors and lawyers and, surprisingly, “art workers.” For the military, “art worker” meant someone skilled in typography or printing of engravings and etchings. It is at this point that Duchamp shamelessly cheated: his grandfather had been an engraver and had left behind some copperplates with “extraordinary views of old Rouen.” The grandson worked with a printer and learned how to print his grandfather’s plates and impressed the jury in the same city and Duchamp was classified as an “art worker.” However that promising start to his military career ended under the withering disapproval of his commanding officer and he was discharged and forever exempted. And so it was that Marcel Duchamp, discouraged by the emptiness of a sad Paris during the Great War was able to come to New York and find Dada there.

It is during that brief period of time, from 1915 to 1918, that Duchamp concentrated on a theme he inherited from the Futurists: the machine. In his introduction to The Writings of Marcel Duchamp, Michel Sanouillet explained,

Duchamp’s attempt to rethink the world rests on two supports, the machine, the image and incarnation of our epoch, and chance, which for our contemporaries has de facto replaced divinity. Towards 1910 he was in contact with futurist experiments and conceived the vision of a society where the automatic and artificial would regulate all our relationships. it was to better affirm his humanity that he integrated himself into this new world. He was going even beyond our own time, which still persists in wishing to adapt the machine to man. Duchamp was trying to imagine a state of affairs where man would humanize then machine to such as extend that the latter would truly come to life..What if the machine, stripped of all anthropomorphic attitudes, were to evolve in a world made in its image with no reference to the criteria governing man, its creator? What if, like Kafka’s monkey, it servilely imitated all human grimaces and gestures with the exclusive goal of freeing itself of its chains and of “leaving” them? Then, if the machine were to love, desire and marry, what would be its mental processes?..According to Duchamp, the machine is a supremely intelligent creature which evolves, in a world completely divorced from our own; it thinks; organizes this thought in coherent sentences, and following the technique describe above, uses words whose meaning is familiar to us. However, these words conspire to mystify us..On the other hand, what would happen if the machine admitted the possibility of accident, or non-repetition, exclusive attribute of man? Better yet, if having gotten ahead of us, it learned to use chance for utilitarian or aesthetic ends?


Mechanical drawing of Bolts and Screws

This rather long speculation on the machine owes more the contemporary science fiction than to the mindset of 1915, but there is no question that Duchamp and his friend Francis Picabia (François Marie Martinez Picabia)) though long and hard about machines as humans and considered the possibility that humans were also machines or mechanical in their operating systems. When Picabia returned to New York, he paused in his career as a painter for almost a decade and embraced on an interesting series of “mechanomorphs,” or portraits of those in the New York art scene as corresponding machines. In other words, if his friends were machines, what kind of machine would he or she be? It was, at this stage of his career , for Picabia to give up painting for it was a medium too “fat” and shiny and sensuous for the machine and its mechanical nature.


Francis Picabia. I See Again in Memory, My Dear Undine (1913)

Like the artists of New Objectivity who would emerge in a decade, Picabia turned to mechanical drawing, dry and circumspect, straightforward and pragmatic. The source material was plentiful and industrial designers and their drawings, artless and presentational, were available in catalogues and manuals. Mechanical drawing itself is an acquired skill, with the artist working at a drafting table with instruments such as compasses and straight edge rulers. It is an art or precision, designed to show and tell without introspection and without need of interpretation. Or course,
reading” these complex renderings is a skill in itself, but, for artists, the reading was less important than the emotionless rendering itself.


Francis Picabia

When Picabia returned to New York in 1915, his sponsor and colleague, Alfred Stieglitz, was in a bit of a holding pattern. A successful photographer, art dealer, sponsor of avant-garde in America, publisher of a major art journal, Camera Work, Stieglitz had been the main conduit for contemporary art but the Great War had stymied the free international exchange of ideas and art. Middle aged and in an unhappy marriage, the photographer faced a crossroads, and, indeed, in 1916 he would close 291 and end that chapter in his life. But, as always the older man surrounded himself with young protégées, in this case, the poet Paul Haviland and the poet Agnes Ernst Meyer, who convinced him to start a new and innovative art magazine, 291, after the famous gallery. Picabia eagerly joined this new enterprise and filled the pages of 291 with a series of “object portraits,” or mechanical drawings of notable members of his artistic circle, pictured as machines. This idea of a person as a metaphor would be copied a decade later by Charles Demuth who painted the poet William Carlos Williams as one of his own poems, I Saw the Figure Five in Gold. But Picabia was far more rigorous in both is approach and his drawing of these “portraits.” No painting is involved, a renunciation similar to that of Duchamp, who was also moving towards a mechanistic form of rendering, as seen in his linear recreation of one of his earlier paintings of a chocolate grinder on the cover of The Blind Man. Picabia explained later that it was his time in America inspired his turn to the machine:

This visit to America has brought about a complete revolution in my methods of work..Almost immediately upon coming to America it flashed on me that the genius of the modern world is machinery, and that through machinery art ought to find a most vivid expression. I have been profoundly impressed by the vast mechanical developments in America. The machine has become more than a mere adjunct of human life–perhaps the very soul.

Picabia was in and out of America between 1915 and 1917, before declaring his farewell to Dada in 1918. During this time of restless traveling, he was in Barcelona where he published a European version of 291, called 391, in which a number of his machine drawings appeared. Using industrial catalogues as a resource, Picabia seems to have favored cars and their many parts as his main source of inspiration. For a man as fascinated with cars as he was, it would not be surprising that he would not only know of manuals of parts but would also be familiar with the actual experience of being a mechanic. Early cars were temperamental and the owners were expected to be able to do their own repairs at a basic level. As Mariea Caudill Dennison explained in her interesting article, “Automobile Parts and Accessories in Picabia’s Machinist Works of 1915-17,”

His American residency gave him ample opportunity to browse in contemporary American printed material, finding illustrations and diagrams of auto parts in magazines, advertisements, handbooks, manuals and even window dis- plays..By the summer of 1915, combination starting, lighting and ignition systems were becoming increasingly common in cars, both as standard equipment and add-on packages.


Francis Picabia. Ici, c’est ici Stieglitz /foi et amour (1915)

In one of the finest of these “portraits,” Alfred Stieglitz was, predictably, a camera or his exact camera to be precise, a vest pocket Kodak model. But Picabia added additional “equipment,” so to speak, a gearshift, which gives the car instruction, and a brake lever that perversely put the camera/car in an immobile position. The brake on Stieglitz has been interpreted as the stalemate the photographer faced as he was a decade past his breakthrough as a “straight photographer.” Both William Innes Homer and William Camfield assert that the brake should be thought of as the photographer at a creative standstill. Appearing on the cover of the July-August 1915 issue of 291, this crisp drawing indicates the speed with which Picabia, who arrived in New York in June, found his métier. As William Rozaitis descried the drawing in “The Joke at the Heart of Things: Francis Picabia’s Machine Drawings and the Little Magazine 291:”

The viewer is confronted with a crisply rendered machine. Its parts are easily identifiable as those of a camera: a lever and a handle appear to the right; a bellows puffs out of a film box at the bottom; and connected to the box by a series of overlapping, riveted supports is a lens. The drawing bears the inscription and title, Ici, c’est ici Stieglitz /foi et amour (Here, this is Stieglitz / faith and love), an apt description of the master photographer (1864-1949) who selflessly worked, with “faith and love,” to raise the status of photography to an art form and to introduce modern painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography to the American public. The word “ideal” appears in Gothic script above the camera’s lens, while 291-the title of the magazine as well as the name of Stieglitz’s well-known gallery-appears to the left, suggesting that the contents of the magazine will champion the same “ideal” standards for modern art that led inspired artists and devotees to crowd Stieglitz’s small room.


Francis Picabia. Le Saint des saints (1915)

The meanings of the suite of five “mechanomorphs” are as complex and personal as the drawings are simplified and impersonal. Picabia’s own self portrait, Le Saint des saints, is a braying automobile horn, also called a “canter,” by the artist, that is one who speaks “cant” or a local language. At the bottom, Picabia wrote “C’est de moi qu’il s’agin dans ce portrait,” which means: “The holy of the holies is to me that it is in this picture.” Le Saint des saints is a portrait of an artist as a conveyor of a message, but, as a prophet, he arrives in a fast car, a machine, the object of the future. If Picabia was a source of noise, then Paul Haviland was a portable electric lamp–a source of light. the poet was wealthy, representing Limoges china to American consumers, and was a financial backer of 291. The portrait, titled, La poésie est comme lui. Voilà Haviland, is a relative simple one, suggesting that Picabia was politely paying tribute to the man who was making his work possible.


Francis Picabia. De Zayas! De Zayas! (1915)

If we overlook the curious fact that the cord for the lamp lacks a plug, in contrast, the rendering of Stieglitz was borderline insulting, if art historians are to be believed, and the portrait of the close associate of Stieglitz, Marius de Zayas (1880-1961), and their benefactor Agnes Ernst Meyer were also less than flattering. Much ink has been spilled on figuring out the many parts of De Zayas! De Zayas!, the portrait of De Zayas, the editor of 291. Indeed, it was De Zayas who had introduced the idea of Apollinaire’s petit revue to New York and published twelve issues of the magazine. He soon left the association with Stieglitz to open his own gallery, The Modern Gallery in 1915. Stieglitz, used to being the only game in town, objected to this sudden move towards independence and the two collaborators drifted apart. Perhaps as an acknowledgment of the estrangement, the gallery was renamed the De Zayas Gallery in 1919.

That said, in 1915, the object diagram of De Zayas is complex and undeciphered, part machine and part fashion illustration, complete with an old fashioned woman’s corset, with no woman in it. Homer noted that the inscriptions were equally strange: “J’ai vu/et c’est de toy qu’il s’agit,” or “I have seen you and it is you that this concerns.” Even more puzzling, the artist wrote, “Je suis venu sur les rivages/du Pont-Euxin,” or “I have come to the shores of Pont-Euxin.” As suggested by the presence of the empty corset, this portrait seems to have sexual content, from a male perspective. Indeed as Mariea Caudill Dennison remarked

Given Picabia’s inclination for linking women and sexuality with machines, it is no surprise to find a woman’s corset here..The female sphere in De Zayas! De Zayas! is clearly the black electrical schematic drawing. Picabia equated a female to a spark plug in Portrait of an American girl in a state of nudity (1915) and here the spark plug is linked by a diagonal line..This point of contact between the red and black systems in Picabia’s rendering suggests that the female creates a spark or surge of electricity that excites or activates the base of the connecting rod. In a car engine the connecting rod moves with the piston (not shown in Picabia’s work) up and down inside the cylinder. The plunging movement within the cylinder is analogous with sexual intercourse..Picabia has seen machinery and females as sources of art and has conquered them both.


Francis Picabia. Portrait d’une jeune fille américane dans l’etat de nuditié (1915)

Next to the famous portrait of Stieglitz, it is the spark plug, perfectly copied in its simple entirety but titled Portrait d’une jeune fille américane dans l’etat de nuditié of 1915, that is the most well-known of the object portraits. Homer suggested, although others disagree, that the jeune fille was a portrait of Agnes Meyer, a married woman, with a wealthy husband. The money she was able to contribute to the “cause” of avant-garde made her a “spark plug” for the artists. As a patron, she made their engines go, sparking their progress. Engraved on the side of the spark plug was the word “Forever,” an ironic inscription, given that it was she who funded De Zayas’ gallery, considered a rival to Stieglitz. The “young girl” was copied from a very deluxe spark plug called a “red head,” but, viewing this homage from the vantage point of one hundred years later, the analogy between a mature married woman and a spark plug in the service of male artists is patronizing and condescending. However, the equation between women and machines and sex was one of the conceptual foundations of Picabia’s work of this interim period. In Picturing Science, Producing Art, Peter Galison noted,

Here we get to the heart of the matter, or rather, the sex of the machine. Surely the spark plug is a phallic woman (which is to say a metaphoric hermaphrodite). Yet she is rendered quite explicitly unthreatening by her very “nudity” and controllability–by our recognition that she stands naked of the larger apparatus that controls her sparking. .PIcabia’s vision of the plug’s erotic potential is suggested by is statement that he chose the spark plug for his girl because she was the “kindler of the flame.”

Sadly, shortly after this remarkable series of machine portraits or mechanomorphs, Picabia had a mental and physical breakdown and in 1916 left New York for Barcelona where he produced a new magazine, 391, nihilistic and alienated and aggressive. Reflective of the personality of Picabia himself, the issues also presented some of his ”portraits mécaniques.” In the third issue, Marie, a fan belt represented the artist Marie Laurencin, who was associated with Apollinaire. Then in 1917, Picabia returned to New York and continued his publication. Subsequent studies of the work of this artist during the years of the War have been somewhat sloppy in assuming his art was a critique of the New Woman or the Flapper, but these liberated women asserted themselves only after the war was over, and in America at peace, women were safely in their traditional places. There is no evidence to suggest that the Spanish-French artist was aware of the Suffragette movement, taking place in front of the White House in Washington D. C. Both Picabia and Duchamp had complex and varied experiences with many women and these events often found their way into their art in what David Hopkins called “male self-referentialty.” It seems more likely that, like Duchamp, Picabia’s interest was less in women and their social position and more in the mechanics of sex itself–Stieglitz is old and impotent and women, as sex machines, exist for the pleasure of the young male, also a sex machine.

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Modernism in New York City, 1920s


The New York Artists in the 1920s

As an avant-garde entrepreneur and increasingly experimental artist, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) had a gift for gab and a penchant for younger followers. By the beginning of the Great War, the photographer had surrounded himself with up and coming American artists. Stieglitz made his mark in the small art world of New York City as a promoter of art photography and “straight photography,” and as the presiding spirit in his famous 291 Gallery on Fifth Avenue. Here New Yorkers could see the first American exhibitions of Rodin, Cézanne, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau got their first one-person shows in America at the 291.

The introduction of the European avant-garde paved the way for a new generation of American artists to break away from the lingering realism of the Ash Can School. In contrast to American expatriate artists, such as Patrick Bruce, Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell, most of the American artists of New York modernism were homegrown products. Arthur Dove, Charles Sheeler, John Marin, and Charles Demuth were painter who combined the suggestions of Cubism with the pragmatism of the American tradition of realism. Marsden Hartley had a European based career until the start of the Great War forced him to leave his German lover behind and return to America. Hartley’s art was a combination of Cubism and Expressionism, but the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe were free of European influences.

Under the guidance of Stieglitz, these artists were able to have careers in a territory hostile to avant-garde art—indeed, Stieglitz, his gallery and his influence, were virtually the only game in town for an ambitious American artist. The American Modernists were aware of avant-garde European art–more than most American artists–and yet their art stayed in the conservative vein of a precise and stylized realism based upon American subject matter. Even the most radical of the Modernists, Stuart Davis (1892-1964), looked back on the assimilation, mockingly called one of his paintings, Colonial Cubism of 1954.

After the Armory Show in 1913, it was clear that Americans could deal with European Modernism only in a diluted fashion. Clearly, the nation was not ready for Marcel Duchamp, but there was an art audience for American subject matter slightly radicalized by a nod to Cubism. Charles Sheeler’s (1883-1965) precise paintings (Americana, 1931) and radically abstract photographs of early American architecture (Doylestown House—The Stove, 1917) combined with local and the historical with a stylized depiction inspired by de-centered perspectives from European painting.

Charles Demuth (1883-1936) painted American industry shot through with Cubist fractures that did not disrupt the image. My Egypt (1927) shows a fully assimilated understanding of the look of Futurist lines of force, of the shooting diagonals of Rayonism, but he seemed to understand little of the concepts behind the device of the dynamic line. I Saw the Figure Five in Gold (1928) was a nod to the Synthetic period of Picasso’s Cubism combined with Futurist motion. Demuth did not embrace the theoretical thinking but manipulated the aesthetic or the appearance of the European avant-garde.

Demuth’s approach is very similar to that of Gerald Murphy (1888-1964), a painter more respected in Europe than in New York. Murphy, an international sophisticate, was admired by the Europeans for his uniquely “American” subject matter. Only seven of Murphy’s fourteen paintings are extant and Razor (1924) and Watch (1925) are very close to the work of Fernand Léger during that decade. What Murphy offered the French was the modernism of a young and vigorous nation combined with the classical approach of the School of Paris. In comparison, Arthur Dove’s Goin’ Fishin’ of 1925 is a downright folksy response to collage. What these disparate artists have in common is the intention to produce “American” art to counter the dominance of the Europeans.

It would take the New Yorkers another three decades to produce a kind of “American” art that would eclipse European Modernism. But an important beachhead was established. America was considered the most advanced and modern nation. Greatly admired by Europeans, New York City was the model for the city of the future imagined by the German film director, Fritz Lang, in his groundbreaking science-fiction classic,Metropolis (1925). Far more than the art being produced in Europe, American art reflected the modernity of the nation and, indeed, of the century to come.

An example of Modernism in American, Precisionism, flourished in the 1920s and 30s, as a painterly counterpart of the New Vision photography of Paul Strand. Precisionism was a reductive and precise painting style. Often based upon a photographic original, these paintings eliminated all ancillary detail and abstracted a landscape or an object to a strong design. Ralston Crawford (1906-1976) (Overseas Highway, 1950) and Charles Sheeler (Church Street El, 1920) celebrated America’s factories and industrial might as their ancient ancestors had celebrated pyramids in Egypt and the Parthenon in Athens. These Modernists are often looked upon as important precursors to American Pop Art in their preference for American popular subjects and American icons.

Of all the American Modernists who reacted to European avant-garde art, perhaps Joseph Stella’s (1877-1946) series on the Brooklyn Bridge, 1919-1920 was the closest to the Europeans. For him, this Bridge, built in 1883, embodied the “new civilization” that was American in all its “perpetual motion.” Stella’s fractured and fragmented Bridge is a superb example of late Salon Cubism, reminiscent of Albert Gleizes when he was waiting out the Great War in New York. During the 1920s Alfred Stiegltz and his group became a lively center of American intelligentsia and provided a counterpoint to a more underground avant-garde group, an outpost of radical European art called, New York Dada, presided over by Walter and Louise Arensberg.

In closing, the art of Georgia O’Keeffe is possibly American Modernism at its best. Stieglitz was very proud of the fact that she had not been impacted by European art and that her art was an unalloyed response to America. With his entrepreneurial handling, she became the most famous and highest priced artist in pre-World War II America. She was perhaps the best painter of the new skyscrapers in New York City, and her large flowers in close-up countered this “masculine” territory. With the exception of Marsden Hartley, O’Keeffe was the only one of the New Yorkers to attempt to represent the American West and to expand the definition of the content of “American” art. After the death of Stieglitz in 1946, O’Keeffe left the city of skyscrapers for good and moved to the land that had always enthralled her, the open land and the open skies, and spent the rest of her life in New Mexico.

Perhaps because of their Americanized approach to European Modernism, these artists were always popular and well respected by the American public in their time. However, the idea of what “American” art should be became more complex in the 1930s with the trend towards Social Realism and Regionalism. Turning away from this message art, the New York School of the 1950s took up an exhausted European Modernism and “Americanized” the old styles of Cubism and Surrealism by combining the geometric and biomorphic and enlarging the format to mural scale. Aside from the move to abstraction, the tactics of the new generation of the New York artists was similar to their precursors. After the Second World War, a new generation of artists and their promoters asserted themselves so aggressively that their important predecessors, the American Modernists, were all but forgotten.

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Alfred Stieglitz and American Modernism


The Significance of Alfred Stieglitz

American Modernism dates approximately from the first half of the Twentieth Century. For the sake of convenience and to take note of a key figure, it is possible to roughly date this period in relation to the career of Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). The photographer returned from Germany in 1890 with a knowledge of avant-garde art in Europe and with experience in “art photography.” In America, photography was largely the province of professionals who worked commercially, but in Europe, there were groups of well-to-do “amateurs” who had the time to experiment and the income to produce fine art. In addition, New York City had no notable or current avant-garde art scene, a situation the young photographer would attempt to rectify. Stieglitz would preside over Modernism in America until his death in 1946.

The self-given mission of Stieglitz, a New York City native, was to make the American public accept photography as a fine art. He began with joining the Society of Amateur Photographers in 1891, and became the editor of The American Amateur Photographer. Resigning from this post in 1895, Stieglitz merged the Society with the Camera Club of New York and in 1896-7 published Camera Notes to put forward his own ideas. He insisted on the idea of a “picture” as opposed to a mere photograph, a term denoting an artistic, rather than a mechanical, endeavor. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Stieglitz would formulate his concepts of the nature of photography itself, based in a combination of what a camera could do—clarity of vision—and what an artist contributed—composition and design.

Photographs of America’s first photographic salon, the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts and the Photographic Society of Pennsylvania, show a rather haphazard salon style of hanging art. Stieglitz exhibited ten of his “pictures” in the exhibition, but, when he opened his own gallery, the installation style would be quite different. The New York group he had put together was a bit too tame for ambitions nurtured in Berlin. When Stieglitz met the young photographer, Edward Steichen, at the Camera Club, the two of them made a bold move. He and his enthusiastic follower started the Photo-Secession, an avant-garde movement of New York photographers who wanted to be both professional artists and progressive photographers. In the time-honored fashion of European movements, in 1901 these photographers “seceded” from the more conservative club. The “Little Galleries” of the Photo-Secession opened in Steichen’s vacated studios at 293 Fifth Avenue and soon became a beacon for the art cognoscenti of New York City.

In 1908 the gallery broke through the wall to next room at 291, a number that would become a site of a circle of American modernist artists. Until 1907, the prime intention of the gallery was to promote photography as art in terms of Pictorialism. The photographers of 291 began as fashionable Pictorialist photographers. This approach to photography attempted to align photography with “art” by emulating artistic styles and looks, such as graphic effects and painterly effects. Pictorialism was often soft in focus and the photographers built on this soft focus by drawing on the image during the developing process. The result was a photograph that looked like a watercolor or a charcoal sketch, often of picturesque subject matter or staged sentimental or narrative scenes.

But in 1907, Pictorialism was challenged by a new way of photographing called Straight Photography, that is, photography that was sharp and clear, based upon only what the camera could do, un-manipulated in the darkroom. In 1907, a year as important for photography as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was for painting, Stieglitz moved definitively away from Pictorialism with The Steerage. This seminal image was an unmediated shot of third class passengers on an ocean liner, devoid of narrative or mood. The viewer must learn to observe, not the emigrants, but the interplay of diagonals and verticals. Suddenly, “straight photography” ended the reign of Pictorialism.

Advanced photographers favored “Camera Vision,” based upon the way in which the camera sees, a mechanical statement for a technological age. Pictorialism suddenly seemed a relic of the last century, and Pictorialists, like Clarence White and Gerturde Kasebier, went their separate ways, separating from Stieglitz. In his turn the middle-aged Stieglitz took up with other younger straight photographers, Paul Strand and Charles Scheeler. Under the influences of the well-traveled Steichen, Stieglitz soon learned to appreciate avant-garde movements in Europe and expanded the repertoire of the gallery to non-photographic art. In a city where the realist Ash Can artists caused consternation, Stieglitz was the first to give artists like Picasso, Matisse and Brancusi shows in America.

During the early years of the twentieth century, Stieglitz played many roles in New York. In a city where there was little interest in progressive art, he continued his career as a photographer, ran the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, published Camera Work and promoted art photography and avant-garde art from Europe. The cover of Camera Work was designed by Edward Steichen in the popular Art nouveau style, connoting an art perspective on photography. Camera Work published seminal art writing by writers such as Sadakichi Hartmann. It was in these pages that Gerturde Stein was given her first publications, on Matisse and Picasso. The gallery 291 was a tiny room lined with storage cabinets and shelves below the wainscoting. A curtain hid the shelves and above the chair railing, the walls were reserved for the exhibition of works of art, displayed on the line, in one row. In the center of the room was a table which held a large copper bowl with the flowers of the season.

The viewer reached the gallery via a small elevator that held there people, including the operator. Once in the gallery, s/he might meet the small talkative man who lectured tirelessly, often for hours, on avant-garde art. Stieglitz was also interested in promoting American artists and American art and his efforts and “his artists” provided an important way station between American provincialism and American hegemony of the post-War period. In these early years in New York City, Stieglitz was the only source of advanced art until the Armory Show in 1913. In the last issue of Camera Work, Stieglitz featured his protogée, Paul Strand, and in the last exhibition of 291, he featured an obscure artist living in Texas, Georgia O’Keeffe.

When the 291 Gallery closed in 1917, Stieglitz opened The Intimate Gallery and later An American Place, as showcase galleries for his work and the work of his circle, a group of young men, the painters, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Charles Scheeler, Charles Demuth, John Marin, the photographer, Paul Strand, and the only woman, his lover, Georgia O’Keeffe. These artists would be the American Modernists, part of a larger group that included Abraham Walkowitz, Gerald Murphy and Edward Hopper. With their New York approach to the challenge of European modernism, this group would represent “America,” the most industrialized nation in the early twentieth century.

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

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