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Photographer Finds Ultra Rare Stieglitz Prints Hiding at Estate Sale

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In December 2021, photographer Jeff Sedlik bid on an previous, pale, framed print at an property sale in Previous Saybrook, Connecticut. Upon receiving it, he instantly opened the body to look at the picture. To his amazement and delight, two equivalent prints had been inside, and each turned out to be extraordinarily uncommon basic platinum prints by Alfred Stieglitz.

Sedlik has been trying to find images at property gross sales, flea markets, swap meets, auctions, galleries, and on-line gross sales websites for 37 years, and he says that this has been his biggest discover to date.

“Once I stumbled onto the property sale, I paged by means of it, searching for images, and discovering none,” says Sedlik, who teaches pictures programs on the ArtCenter Faculty of Design in Pasadena, California. “Then I noticed a framed {photograph} and instantly acknowledged it as a picture that I reference in my lectures on the historical past of pictures.

“I take advantage of this picture and others created by Stieglitz throughout that interval for example the extent to which photographers liberally ‘borrowed’ from the work of painters throughout the formative interval of pictorialism in pictures. It’s ironic, on condition that in trying to ascertain pictures as an unbiased artwork type, photographers sought to make their works seem extra painterly and intently emulated scenes created by painters.

“I knew that this was one in all no less than two completely different images of girls drawing water from wells, created by Stieglitz in Venice throughout his failed honeymoon (his spouse was none too comfortable that he spent their honeymoon making photos).

“I knew that there aren’t any prints of this picture in any public or personal assortment aside from prints held on the Nationwide Gallery and that these prints are cropped in a different way than the print that Stieglitz selected to exhibit to the general public. I knew Stieglitz routinely destroyed his negatives and prints to pressure himself to maneuver ahead artistically.

{Photograph} of the entrance of the framed print, from the property sale public sale. Photograph courtesy Schwenke Auctioneers

“I knew that his negatives from his honeymoon had been saved beneath the sink in his workplace on the New York Camera Club and that leaking water had destroyed all or almost all of these negatives. Sure, I knew what I had discovered.

“I like the historical past of the Stieglitz {photograph} and the story behind it – the one recognized platinum print of this {photograph} ever exhibited by Stieglitz, and the truth that this picture was amongst a handful of images that established Stieglitz because the chief of the motion to raise the notion of pictures as an artwork type.”

Rolling the Cube by Profitable the Public sale

“I used to be unable to examine the print [before the auction] personally, and the vendor had not eliminated the print from the body for inspection,” remembers Sedlik. “I acknowledged that the print could possibly be a copy.

“I used to be involved the merchandise may be a photogravure, however from the restricted data accessible to me by inspecting the {photograph} of the framed print, it didn’t seem that the picture had any of the hallmarks of a photogravure, comparable to a differential gloss within the shadows, floor aid, or ink resting above the paper.

“It was not doable to make a conclusive willpower from an internet {photograph}. However based mostly on my expertise, the chances had been in my favor, and the chance justified the danger.

{Photograph} of the again of the framed print, from the property sale public sale. A remnant of the label of Stieglitz’s framer George F. Of adheres to the highest of the body. Photograph courtesy Schwenke Auctioneers

The title of Alfred Stieglitz and The Philadelphia Photographic Salon 1899 label with the workplace tackle on the Digicam Membership of New York was connected to the again of the body. This didn’t elevate any flags as this property sale was not a pictures sale – the gadgets had been largely furnishings and ornamental gadgets. Few, if any, collectors or gallerists would waste time on such a sale. Additionally, the public sale home misspelled Stieglitz’s title and misspelled Philadelphia. No person was on this merchandise aside from Sedlik and one different bidder.

A bid of $2,200 (upped by $100 from the final bid) resulted in the one different bidder dropping out, and A Venetian Courtyard entered Sedlik’s assortment. The property sale public sale home, Schwenke Auctioneers, didn’t examine the print out of the body and estimated the worth at $100 to $200. Bidding began at $25.

An Sudden Discovery

On receipt of the framed print, all of Sedlik’s fears had been put to relaxation. He discovered that the pale print gave the impression to be a platinum print and had not one of the hallmarks of a photogravure or different copy.

To his nice shock, on fastidiously eradicating the pale print from the body, he found a second platinum print, hidden by Stieglitz, sandwiched between the entrance picture and the backing board. The hidden print is in good situation and has the deep, wealthy tones and delicate tonal transitions anticipated in a platinum print.

Stieglitz was recognized to mount spare prints of his images to the again of his framed prints, to stiffen the framed print.

The pale print. “A Venetian Courtyard, 1894” © Alfred Stieglitz, courtesy Jeff Sedlik
The hidden print, “A Venetian Courtyard,1894” © Alfred Stieglitz, courtesy Jeff Sedlik

Sedlik examined the highest print by means of the glass of the body to make sure that there was no emulsion caught to the glass. He then documented the positions of Stieglitz’s nails on the again of the body and, carrying cotton gloves, fastidiously eliminated the again plate to look at the verso (again facet) of the print for any inscriptions, markings, or mildew.

“I examined the prints beneath magnification and confirmed the hallmarks of platinum printing are current – a matt floor sheen, lengthy tonal vary within the mid-tones, floor texture, and the picture resting throughout the fibers,” says Sedlik. “As well as, a reversed, ghosted picture seems on the verso of the entrance print, which happens when a platinum print oxidizes over time, transferring a replica of the picture to any paper involved with the entrance of the print.”

Analyzing the Print

The platinum print on the entrance (viewable by means of the body’s glass), unmounted, 7 x 5 ¾ in., is probably going the print exhibited twice by Stieglitz in 1899. The yellowing might end result from firming with mercury salts, because the print doesn’t seem coated with wax or shellac, that are the frequent causes of yellowing.

Whereas platinum prints usually are not usually vulnerable to fading resulting from solar publicity, fading might happen resulting from points with the sensitized paper or errors/shortcuts in print processing.

“I’ve consulted with main platinum print conservation consultants and am advised that the fading on the entrance print was not brought on by publicity to daylight,” explains the photographer collector. “However was as a substitute brought on by an error in Stieglitz’s use of mercury salts within the sensitizer or developer.”

Stieglitz and different platinum printers used mercury so as to add a heat, sepia tone to their platinum prints. The print has seemingly been secure for over a century and is unlikely to proceed to fade. The underside, hidden picture is in good situation. This may be defined by Stieglitz’s appropriate use of mercury within the improvement of this print and isn’t associated to the relative quantity of UV publicity acquired by the 2 prints, Sedlik assures from his consultations with the consultants.

Each the prints are on skinny paper, which can clarify why he selected to double the prints to stiffen them up so they might lay flat.

The verso of the entrance print features a reversed, ghosted picture of “A Venetian Courtyard,” brought on by oxidization from the second platinum print hidden straight behind it.

A ghosted, reversed picture on the again of the seen print, resulting from platinum oxidization from the hidden print saved behind it. Courtesy Jeff Sedlik

The hidden print is a platinum print, mounted, sheet trimmed to picture, 7 x 5 ¾ in., has deep, wealthy tones, and is in good situation, with no fading or yellowing. An inscription of the verso of the hidden print signifies “Stieglitz” handwritten in script, seemingly by Stieglitz’s framer, George F. Of, whose label can be seen adhered to the body verso.

The again plate of the framed Previous Saybrook Print/s, 7 x 5 ¾ in., consists of an 1899 Philadelphia Salon entry type handwritten by Stieglitz, along with his twenty ninth road workplace tackle (the Digicam Notes tackle on the Digicam Membership), a title of “A Venetian Courtyard,” a value of $15. The January 1899 Journal of the PSP experiences, “Forty-two photos had been bought throughout the exhibition at a complete value of $482, the typical being $11.95 every.”

The title “H. Duncan” is inscribed, seemingly indicating the attendee who bought the print on the Salon.

The body of the Previous Saybrook Print/s 8 1/8 x 6 7/8 in., features a decal on the backside proper nook, with the quantity “283,” matching the entry quantity assigned by the Philadelphia Salon to the Previous Saybrook Print/s in 1899. This similar quantity decal, adhered to the Previous Saybrook Print/s, seems in {a photograph} of the Previous Saybrook Print/s as exhibited with different Stieglitz images on the 1899 Philadelphia Salon.

{A photograph} of “A Venitian Courtyard” exhibited by Stieglitz on the 1899 Philadelphia Photographic Salon. Sedlik bought this print, in the identical body. Courtesy George Eastman Home
A crop of the Kodak picture displaying the framed Stieglitz on the heart of this story.

A replica of the The Philadelphia Photographic Salon 1899 catalog confirms that the print was #283 on the present.

Cowl of the catalog for the 1899 Philadelphia Salon the place Stieglitz’s A Venetian Courtyard was displayed.
The 1899 Philadelphia Photograph Salon catalog displaying Venetian Courtyard as print quantity 283.

A label remnant adhered to the body verso is the label of George F. Of, the famed framer who framed the work of Stieglitz, O’Keefe, Marin, and plenty of others in Stieglitz’s circle.

The Stieglitz Key Set identifies three titles for the {photograph}: “A Venetian Courtyard,” “A Venetian Properly,” and “A Properly, Venice.” Notably, two recognized variations of “A Venetian Courtyard” are printed from the identical unfavourable. In a single model, a woman appears in a window on the high proper nook of the picture.

Within the Previous Saybrook Print/s, Stieglitz cropped the picture to get rid of the girl within the background, simplify the composition and focus consideration on the girl and the effectively within the mid-ground. Earlier than the invention of the Previous Saybrook Print/s, there was just one recognized print of a cropped model of this {photograph}. It’s a completely different crop than the Previous Saybrook Prints, which Stieglitz cropped for public exhibition.

The jury of the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon, 1899. The {photograph} exhibits, from left: Frances Benjamin Johnston, Clarence H. White, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, and Henry Troth. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Library of Congress

A Venetian Courtyard

Stieglitz made this {photograph} in 1894 on his European honeymoon along with his first spouse, Emmeline Obermeyer, in Campiello Santa Marina, Venice, simply as “hand cameras” (handheld cameras) had been gaining in recognition.

The Campiello Santa Marina Venice location of Stieglitz’s picture in 2021 seems nearly the identical because it did over 100 years in the past as the world has been effectively preserved. Photograph by Abxbay and licensed beneath CC BY-SA 4.0
One other view of the Venetian Properly because it seems immediately. Pictures utilized by permission of Max Bertacchi, www.veneziatiamo.eu.

In 1892 Stieglitz purchased his first handheld digicam, a Folmer & Schwing 4×5 plate digicam. Stieglitz was an advocate of the brand new handheld cameras, which allowed for elevated spontaneity and creativity.

The unfavourable was in all probability a 4×5 inch, and Stieglitz seemingly made an internegative from which the platinum was made by contact printing.

As he had performed with Winter, Fifth Avenue, he made enlarged internegatives that allowed him to retouch his negatives extra simply, take away distracting components such because the anchor-line in Gossip—Katwyk, and make prints as massive as fifteen, even often twenty-one inches extensive (Key Set numbers 208212, and 225). From these enlarged internegatives, he made carbon, gum bichromate, and photogravure prints, processes that allowed him to make use of the supplies and palettes of a painter: he often printed these images on chine collé or thick, textured watercolor sheets in charcoal grey and brown, and even pink, inexperienced, blue, and yellow now and again. — The Key Set: 1884–1901, National Gallery of Art [emphasis ours]

The Key Set referenced above consists of no less than one print of each mounted {photograph} in his possession on the time of his demise and was chosen by his spouse, Georgia O’Keeffe

It’s believed that Stieglitz first exhibited A Venetian Courtyard in Might 1899 within the “Exhibition of Pictures by Alfred Stieglitz” on the Gallery of the Camera Club of New York. Stieglitz subsequent exhibited the {photograph} in October 1899 in salon room #5 at “The Second Photographic Salon” of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia.

1899 New York Digicam Membership Stieglitz exhibition. Venetian Courtyard and Venetian Properly side-by-side.

Stieglitz’s framed print might have been bought by an attendee “H. Duncan” (whose title seems on the backplate beneath the salon label) for $15 (the asking value written on the salon label by Stieglitz and over $500 in immediately’s {dollars} when adjusted for inflation) on the Philadelphia Salon and remained in a non-public assortment for 122 years till it resurfaced in a December 2021 public sale of furnishings, lamps, and ornamental gadgets in an Previous Saybrook, Connecticut property sale.

The style scenes Stieglitz was excited by capturing in Venice had been usually within the heart of a piazza. These piazze often had a effectively that served as a water provide for the residents of Venice. …. The situation might be recognized because the Campiello Santa Marina.225 Within the heart of the picture is a hexagonal effectively with massive, cross-shaped reliefs on all sides. On the right-hand facet of the picture, a girl is busy turning the crank of a deal with, apparently to attract water from the effectively’s backside. The lady is seen solely in profile, along with her arms prolonged ahead to function the crank. The slight blurring of her head lends her the very genuine look of a girl at work. She has her hair sure up in a bun and is carrying plain, useful clothes with a darkish apron. In accordance with the title of the image, Stieglitz didn’t give attention to the individuality of the girl, who can’t be clearly acknowledged. His emphasis was on the effectively, which he put in sharp focus within the heart of the picture. – Web page 116,  Chiara Maria Pia Seidl’s 2020 Ph.D. thesis Collaboration and Innovation: Alfred Stieglitz and His European Heritage

Who Was Alfred Stieglitz?

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was an American photographer who helped popularize pictures as an artwork type over his 5 many years of labor. He was an necessary chief within the Pictorialist movement.

Alfred Steiglitz Frank Eugene, CC0, by way of Wikimedia Commons

“Few people have exerted as sturdy an affect on Twentieth-century American artwork and tradition because the photographer and artwork vendor Alfred Stieglitz,” says the National Gallery of Art.

Stieglitz was additionally fascinated by work. He operated just a few New York Galleries in his lifetime. He launched European painters to the US by means of them, organizing the primary exhibitions in America of labor by Pablo PicassoHenri MatisseGeorges Braque, and Paul Cézanne, amongst others.

He made a number of hundred images of painter Georgia O’Keeffe – whom he married in 1924 — between 1917 and 1937. His refusal to encapsulate her personality into a single image was according to a number of modernist concepts.

Stieglitz utilizing a handheld Graflex digicam, circa 1904. Photograph by Heinrich Kühn_Museum of Trendy Artwork, New York. Notice: This was 10 years after he created the Venetian Courtyard picture and wouldn’t be the identical digicam.

Stieglitz prints are extraordinarily uncommon and extremely worthwhile. A 1919 palladium print displaying O’Keefe’s hands bought at public sale in 2006 for $1,472,000. A 1914 print titled From the Again-Window sold at a Christie’s auction in 2013 for $363,750, and one other 1915 print titled sold in 2015 for $473,000.

What’s a Platinum Print?

Platinum printing (and later palladium as platinum use was diverted to the navy throughout WWI and shot up in value) was patented within the mid-1870s. It has a smooth look because the emulsion doesn’t sit on high of the paper, and there’s no gelatin coating. The emulsion will soak into the paper permitting the metals to stay in place when the unexposed emulsion is washed away.

Platinum prints (aka platinotypes) are made utilizing a combination of iron and platinum salts. The paper is sensitized in order that the picture kinds throughout the fibers. When correctly processed, platinum prints don’t degrade – or the paper will usually deteriorate earlier than the picture fades.

A platinum print has a bigger tonal vary in comparison with a silver print. The prints are additionally matt and have fewer reflections than silver prints, which additionally tended to curve resulting from the usage of a gelatin coating.

Alfred Stieglitz’s alternative course of from the late Eighties to the early Nineteen Twenties was the platinum print, or “platinotype.” He was an early adopter and appreciated the aesthetic properties and permanence.

Stieglitz appreciated the matte floor of platinum papers and the wealthy vary of tones. He wrote eighteen articles between 1887 to 1902 by which he wrote evaluations of economic papers and merchandise. He additionally wrote strategies of hand-sensitizing papers and chemical manipulations, which might alter the picture’s tone from impartial gray to sepia. And it’s in all probability one in all these manipulations that resulted within the high print’s fading fairly than its publicity to UV or gentle over the past 122 years.

Sedlik: Photographer, Trainer, Collector, Copyright Professional

Sedlik’s father was a navy photographer, inspiring him to pursue pictures. He offered Sedlik along with his first digicam at age eight. At age 12, Sedlik constructed a darkroom in his bed room closet, making portraits of his family and friends, and capturing for the varsity paper and yearbook. He went on to review pictures and enterprise on the College of California at Santa Barbara, then earned his BFA diploma in an intensive skilled pictures program on the ArtCenter Faculty of Design in Pasadena, California.

Whereas learning on the ArtCenter, he realized in regards to the enterprise facet of pictures and the significance of copyright. He was elected because the nationwide president of the Promoting Photographers of America (now American Photographic Artists). As president, he labored intently with the copyright workplace and legislators on copyright reforms.

Sedlik has invested the earnings from the sale of his personal superb artwork prints of musicians, monks, matadors, and others to buy works by Cartier-Bresson, Karsh, Bravo, Penn, Lange, Bullock, Sander, Weston, Cunningham, Kertész, Iturbide, Bernhard, Rothstein, Emerson, Tress, Boubat, Curtis, Ronis, Lessing, and extra.

Over time, he has developed deep data and experience in copyright regulation associated to the visible arts. Each the Home and Senate have repeatedly summoned him to testify earlier than their Judiciary Committees on copyright reform. Along with instructing copyright regulation and licensing on the ArtCenter Faculty for 25 years, he’s often employed by regulation corporations to offer litigation technique consulting and knowledgeable witness testimony.

The Way forward for the Discovered Stieglitz Prints

The Stieglitz prints have been saved in a safe, climate-controlled facility for safekeeping and to make sure that these traditionally necessary prints are preserved.

“After my discussions with conservators to confirm the platinum prints and to find out if any motion is required to protect them (none is), phrase unfold within the cultural heritage and pictures communities, and numerous gallerists, museums, and collectors have contacted me,” says the photographer.

However Sedlik is in no hurry.

“I’ve not had the prints appraised, as I’m not actively providing the prints on the market,” says Sedlik. “Their distinctive historical past and verifiable exhibition add to their worth. I might want to search an appraisal for insurance coverage functions.”


Concerning the creator: Phil Mistry is a photographer and trainer based mostly in Atlanta, GA. He began one of many first digital digicam lessons in New York Metropolis at The International Center of Photography within the 90s. He was the director and trainer for Sony/Well-liked Images journal’s Digital Days Workshops. You’ll be able to attain him right here.


Picture credit: Header images of Venetian Courtyard by Alfred Stieglitz, left is high pale picture and proper is backside unfaded picture, courtesy Jeff Sedlik. 

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