On Stieglitz: Research from Our Collections

June 29, 2017

By Nancy Kuhl

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

A Beginning Light

Katherine Hoffman

Stieglitz: A Beginning Light & Alfred Stieglitz: A Legacy of Light By Katherine Hoffman available from Yale University Press

ABOUT Stieglitz: A Beginning Light

This beautifully written book weaves together biographical, historical, and artistic strands to present a colorful tapestry of the photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s (1864–1946) early life and work. Generously illustrated, the volume includes photographs Stieglitz took in Europe (some rarely seen), his first works in the United States, and Katherine Hoffman’s new photographs of important sites in young Stieglitz’s life. The book is the first to look closely at the photographer’s formative years and photographic works before 1917.

Although Stieglitz was born in New Jersey, his ancestry lay in Germany, where he spent some of his high school and university years. Stieglitz: A Beginning Light traces the lasting influences of European culture on his work, as well as the impact of American democratic traditions. The book also recounts his tireless and often lonely efforts as a young photographer, editor, writer, and gallery director to gain recognition for the Modernist cause and for photography as a fine art.

ABOUT Alfred Stieglitz: A Legacy of Light

In Stieglitz: A Beginning Light, Katherine Hoffman presented an account of the early years of the career of Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) and of his European roots. Now, she offers a compelling portrait of his life and art from 1915 to 1946, focusing on his American works, issues of identity, and the rise of modernism in America.

Hoffman explores Stieglitz’s roles as photographer, editor, writer, and gallery director; how they intersected with his personal life — including his marriage to artist Georgia O’Keeffe — and his place in the cultural milieu of the 20th century. Excerpts from previously unpublished correspondence between Stieglitz and O’Keeffe reveal the fervor and complexity of their relationship as well as his passion for photography and modern art and his ongoing struggle to have photography recognized as an established artistic medium. These letters, along with his work as an editor and writer of short articles, illuminate Stieglitz’s literary side, thus giving a new perspective on his total oeuvre.

Generously illustrated with 300 images, this intriguing, beautifully written book separates the photographer’s true personality from the myths surrounding him and highlights his lasting legacy: the works he left behind.

Katherine Hoffman is chairperson and professor, Fine Arts Department, St. Anselm College. She is the author of five previous books, including two on Georgia O’Keeffe.