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December 15, 2021

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz, 1918

Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz first met in person in 1916 when O’Keeffe paid a visit to Gallery 291 to see an exhibition of Marsden Hartley works. At the time, he was 52 years old, married, and a famous, internationally acclaimed photographer, with an avant-garde gallery in Manhattan. She, on the other hand, was 28, unknown and just beginning her professional art career. However, O’Keeffe, ever the striking woman, made an immediate impact on Stieglitz—both artistically and emotionally. The two began a professional and personal relationship, exchanging often daily correspondence.

In a 1917 letter to O’Keeffe, Stieglitz wrote: “How I wanted to photograph you — the hands — the mouth — & eyes — & the enveloped in black body — the touch of white — & the throat — but I didn’t want to break into your time — ”

O’Keeffe first posed for Stieglitz’s camera in the spring of 1917. Over the next twenty years, he made over 300 portraits of her—nude and clothed, performing mundane tasks and posing dramatically in front of her paintings, showing her entire body as well as isolated views of her neck, hands, breasts, and feet.

Alfred Stieglitz. Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait, 1918. (Georgia O’Keeffe Museum)

In 1918, the same year this photograph was taken, O’Keeffe accepted Stieglitz’s invitation and moved to New York where he provided her with financial support and arranged for a residence and studio space for her to work. Drawn together by their shared interests and passion, the two began a heated love affair. Stieglitz’s nude photographs of O’Keeffe taken at this time created quite the sensation. One of many the two would experience in their prominent decades long relationship.

Finally, in 1924, Stieglitz divorced his first wife and wed O’Keeffe. The two remained married until his death in 1946.

Stieglitz’s photographs of the young O’Keeffe document in great detail one of the most passionate love stories in the history of modern art.


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