Alfred Stieglitz : biography
Alfred Stieglitz (January 1, 1864 – July 13, 1946) was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an accepted art form. In addition to his photography, Stieglitz is known for the New York art galleries that he ran in the early part of the 20th century, where he introduced many avant-garde European artists to the U.S. He was married to painter Georgia O'Keeffe.
Early years (1864–1890)
Stieglitz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the first son of German-Jewish immigrants Edward Stieglitz (1833–1909) and Hedwig Ann Werner (1845–1922). At that time his father was a lieutenant in the Union Army, but after three years of fighting and earning an officer's salary he was able to buy an exemption from future fighting. This allowed him to stay near home during his first son's childhood, and he played an active role in seeing that he was well-educated. Over the next fifteen years the Stieglitzes had five more children: Flora (1865–1890), twins Julius (1867–1937) and Leopold (1867–1956), Agnes (1869–1952) and Selma (1871–1957). Alfred Stieglitz was said to have been very jealous of the closeness of the twins, and as a result he spent much of his youth wishing for a soul mate of his own.
In 1871 Stieglitz was sent to the Charlier Institute, at that time the best private school in New York. He enjoyed his studies but rarely felt challenged by them. During the summers his family would leave the city and travel to Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains. As an adult, Stieglitz would return frequently to this same area to rest and spend time with his family.
A year before he graduated, his parents sent him to public high school so he would qualify for admission to the City College where his uncle taught. He found the classes at the high school were far too easy to challenge him, and his father decided that the only way he would get a proper education was to enroll him in the rigorous schools of his German homeland.
In 1881 Edward Stieglitz sold his company for US$400,000 and moved his family to Europe for the next several years. Alfred Stieglitz enrolled in the Realgymnasium (middle school) in Karlsruhe, while the other children studied in Weimar. Their parents, along with Hedwig Werner's sister Rosa Werner, traveled around Europe going to museums, spas and theaters. Alfred Stieglitz was reportedly entranced by the thought of his father being cared for and pampered by two different women.
The next year, Stieglitz began studying mechanical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin. He received the then enormous allowance of US$1,200 a month and spent much of his time going around the city in search of the same type of intellectual discussions he enjoyed back home. By chance he enrolled in a chemistry class taught by Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, who was an important scientist and researcher in the then developing field of photography. In Vogel, Stieglitz found both the academic challenge he needed and an outlet for his growing artistic and cultural interests. At the same time he met German artists Adolf von Menzel and Wilhelm Hasemann, both of whom introduced him to the idea of making art directly from nature. He bought his first camera and traveled through the European countryside, taking many photographs of landscapes and peasants in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
In 1884 his parents returned to America, but Stieglitz remained in Germany for the rest of the decade. During this time Stieglitz began to collect the first books of what would become a very large library on photography and photographers in Europe and the U.S. He read extensively as he collected, and through his library he formulated his initial thinking about photography and aesthetics. In 1887 he wrote his very first article, "A Word or Two about Amateur Photography in Germany", for the new magazine The Amateur Photographer. Soon he was regularly writing articles on the technical and aesthetic aspects of photography for magazines in England and Germany.
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