Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date



The life and art of Alfred Stieglitz, more than any other photographer in the short history of this medium, has been subjected to seemingly endless analysis. However, biographers, thus far, have relied on interpretations of the thoughts of Stieglitz rather than his own published articles. This thesis, therefore, is directed to an extensive analysis of the published writings of Stieglitz and the new insights they afford into the personality of this seminal figure in American art and the controversies surrounding him. Also included is a compilation of all known published works by Stieglitz which number over 260 articles and letters.

The writings have been divided into three sections, from 1887 to 1902, from 1903 to 1917, and from 1918 to 1943, the date of his last published piece. The first chapter of this thesis discusses the period from 1887 to 1902, which was by far Stieglitz's most prolific time as a writer, for he published 149. articles and letters. Within the articles dealing with technical matters can be seen Stieglitz's evolution from a concern solely for process to the application of process for specific aesthetic results. During this period as well, Stieglitz's articles on photographic exhibitions evolve from reviews of indi­vidual work to statements on the ideal photographic salon.

The second chapter discusses the writings from 1903 to 1917. Initially these articles served to elucidate and defend the principles of the Photo-Secession, an organi­zation of photographers formed by Stieglitz in 1902 dedicated to establishing photography as a fine art. However, as the Photo-Secession achieved its goals and its members disbanded, Stieglitz redirected his attention in his articles to issues of modern art.

During the final period, from 1918 to 1943, dis­cussed in the third chapter, Stieglitz wrote and published only thirty-three articles. Rather than specifically elucidating one concern, these articles are on a variety of topics, and many are letters of historical correction, usually stating that an artist was first shown at Stieglitz's gallery.

From these writings it becomes apparent that unlike Stieglitz's concern for the elevation of American pictorial photography or the defense of the Photo-Secession, the introduction of modern art to America was not a literary cause for Stieglitz. For while he was actively involved in exhibiting avant-garde art, he did not champion it in the press as he had done with previous causes. Equally in Stieglitz's writings can be seen his evolution from a concern for the general movement, American pictorial photography, manifested in the years 1887 to 1902, to a concern for a specific group, the Photo-Secession, seen in the years 1903 to 1910, and finally to a concern solely for individuals regardless of group affiliation or artistic media.

In the conclusion it is proposed that Stieglitz used the published word primarily as a defense of what he considered to be the truth and not for philosophical discussions. His ideas were crusades and were in turn the truth. It was this defense of the truth, regardless of issue, which compelled Stieglitz to write.

The appendix contains, in microfiche form, all of Stieglitz's known published writings arranged chronologi­cally. An annotated bibliography of these writings facilitates their location in the appendix.



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Beaumont Newhall

Second Committee Member

Thomas Barrow

Third Committee Member

Barbara Anderson