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November 15, 2023

Georgia O’Keeffe Photographed by Rufus Holsinger, 1915

Portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe during her time at the University of Virginia, where she was a teaching assistant. These portraits were taken on July 19, 1915 by photographer Rufus W. Holsinger.

Rufus W. Holsinger, the oldest of Thomas Snyder and Elizabeth Snyder Holsinger’s four sons, was born on February 22, 1865. Although the exact location of his birthplace is unknown, it is believed the Mr. Holsinger moved from Pennsylvania to Charlottesville, Virginia, in the late 1880s to open a photography business. Specializing in wet-plate collodion photography, he opened his ‘University Studio’ at 719-721 West Main Street. He preferred the wet-plate method because he believed they produced the sharpest large (14 x 17) image negatives. He mastered the tedious process and prints would be made on the finest albumen paper, purchased from E. & H. T. Anthony & Company.

In 1906, Holsinger was the sole agent for the famous Eastman Kodaks. His gallery carried a full line of photographic supplies, picture frames, mouldings, etc. In 1912 he was commissioned to create an historical record of the interior and grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate. A fire in 1912 destroyed many of his early prints but he stayed in business.

1915 turned out to be a pivotal year for Mr. Holsinger. While working as an instructor at the University of Virghina, he made a portrait of fledgling painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Sadly, that same year, during a postsurgery recuperation, Mr. Holsinger suffered lightheadedness, which resulted in a fall from his studio’s second-story window. Although his fall was broken by a telephone line, he fractured his skull, and was forced into retirement. Thereafter, his Main Street gallery would be operated by his son Ralph W. Holsinger. Rufus W. Holsinger died on October 9, 1931, and his son continued operating the studio at its 908 West Main Street location until his retirement in 1969.

1 comment:

  1. Learn more about the Holsinger Collection at the University of Virginia Library:

    Learn more about Georgia O’Keeffe's time spent at the University of Virginia:




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