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Alfred StieglitzBy the mid 1890s Alfred Stieglitz had submitted photographs to the major European photographic salons that were breaking away from the older photographic societies. In London, Paris and Vienna each group had shown by exhibitions and published catalogues that a different path could be taken in photography that more closely resembled the art of the day. Pictorialism can be simplistically ridiculed as clichéd pictures of curly haired children and soft focused rural idylls that appealed to a dubious nostalgia: but this to see it through jaded contemporary eyes and does not do justice to what was happening. Certainly not all pictorialism is worthy of historical note and looking through the catalogues the quality varies immensely but understanding the change over what had gone before is essential.
Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies
In Vienna in 1894 the Vienna Camera Club published Wiener Photographische Blätter: Herausgegeben Vom Camera-Club In Wien and each issue was accompanied by a number of photogravures by photographers like Hugo Henneberg, Hans Watzek, F. Mallman, J. S. Bergheim, and Adolph Meyer. Here art and photography were combined and the resultant portraits, landscapes and still lifes in their composition and tones reflected the sensibilities of the art of the late 19th century. In January of the same year the Première Exposition d‘Art Photographique was held in Paris and plate XXXVII of the catalogue was the work of Alfred Stieglitz "Les Joueurs de Cartes". Stieglitz also had his photograph "Scurrying Home" in "The Photographic Salon" of the Linked Ring in London in 1895 and that same photograph was included in his 1897 portfolio "Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies". Another of his photographs "Wet Day on the Boulevard" was included, under the title "Ein Nasser Tag", with the Wiener Photographische Blätter: Herausgegeben Vom Camera-Club In Wien in August 1896 and it also appears in the portfolio.
This context is important as it helps us understand the intellectual and artistic environment that Stieglitz was involved in when he published the Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies in 1897. The work was published by R.H. Russell in New York but Stieglitz created the steel plates himself from his photographs and oversaw all aspects of the publication.
The title contains 12 unnumbered plates of which four were taken in New York:
- Winter on Fifth Avenue
- A Winter Sky - Central Park
- The Glow of Night, New York
- Reflections: Night, New York