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Lot 156
Alfred Stieglitz
The Steerage
16 – 26 January 2023, 12:00 EST
Skinner Marlborough, Massachusetts

Sold for US$5,737.50 inc. premium

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Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)

The Steerage, 1907
Photogravure, printed 1911, from Camera Work XXXVI; matted.
7 5/8 x 5 15/16 in. (19.5 x 15.1 cm)


Artist, gallerist, and editor, Alfred Stieglitz published the illustrated magazine Camera Work with the goal of elevating the young medium of photography to the pantheon of the high arts of painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Released quarterly from 1903 to 1917, the editorial promoted the work of artistic photographers of the day. Over its run of nearly fifteen years, it was a platform that widely reproduced works by the likes of Gertrude Kasebier, Edward Steichen, Clarence White, Alvin Landon Coburn, Julia Margaret Cameron, and many others for the first time. Most often printed in photogravure on a soft-tissue paper, the magnificent reproductions on the pages of the periodical helped to further the Photo-Secession's goals of advancing photography as an artistic practice to a wide readership.

At the crossroads of Pictorialism and the early days of Modernism, Camera Work XXXVI devoted the entire issue to photographs by Stieglitz. From the atmospheric The Hand of Man, 1902 and 1892's The Terminal to Modernist compositions that explore New York moving into a new era, the photographs featured an in-depth view at the work of the periodical's founder and publisher.

Reproduced for the first time was Stieglitz's signature photograph, The Steerage. Marked as the artist's departure from the painterly, soft-focus views that dominated photography at the turn of the century, here Stieglitz presented a straightforward view of everyday life that embraced the mechanical nature of the camera. Photographed aboard a transatlantic journey, the 1907 image depicted the third-class section of the ship and the passengers that occupied the space. Proclaimed as the first Modernist photograph, the composition faithfully renders the scene as it unfolded. A masterclass in form and perspective, The Steerage is equally a social and societal class study.

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