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The Steerage.

Stock Code 92035

1907 (printed between 1911 and 1915).

Original price $15,571.00 - Original price $15,571.00
Original price
$15,571.00 - $15,571.00
Current price $15,571.00
Stieglitz's most iconic photograph. In June 1907, Stieglitz and his family sailed to Europe to visit relatives and friends. They booked 1st class tickets on the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, one of the largest and fastest ships in the world at that time. According to Stieglitz, sometime after their third day of travel, he went for a walk around the ship and came upon a viewpoint that looked down toward the lower class passengers area, known on most ships as the steerage. The scene Stieglitz captured is in fact a cultural document of an important period when many immigrants were coming to America. But this photo was taken on a cruise going to Europe from America, and so the poor people captured in the photo were most likely those who were turned away by U.S. Immigration officials and were forced to go back to Europe. Although some of the passengers might have been rejected immigrants, turned back because of failure to meet financial or health requirements for entrance, it is also likely that many of them were various artisans who worked in the booming U.S. construction trade of the time. Workers who were highly skilled in crafts such as cabinetmaking, woodworking and marble laying were granted two-year temporary visas to complete their jobs and then returned to their homelands when the work was complete. A son of German Jewish immigrants, Stieglitz perhaps recognised himself in those people of the lower deck.

The Steerage began its life as a masterpiece four years after its creation, with Stieglitz's publication of it in a 1911 issue of Camera Work devoted exclusively to his photographs in the 'new' style, together with a Cubist drawing by Picasso. Stieglitz loved to recount how the great painter had praised the collage-like dispersal of forms and shifting depths of The Steerage. Canonised retroactively, the photograph allowed Stieglitz to put his chosen medium on par with the experimental European painting and sculpture he imported and exhibited at his gallery.

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was a major force in the promotion and elevation of photography as a fine art in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Steerage is considered Stieglitz's signature work, and was proclaimed by the artist and illustrated in histories of the medium as his first 'modernist' photograph. It marks Stieglitz's transition away from painterly prints of Symbolist subjects to a more straightforward depiction of quotidian life.

Small format photogravure on Japanese tissue paper, (192 x 152 mm), mounted (size with mount 367 x 299 mm).

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