Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)

The Pool - Evening: A Symphony to a Race and to a Soul, 1899

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
The Pool - Evening: A Symphony to a Race and to a Soul, 1899
platinum print with hand-applied ink border, mounted on original grey paper, mounted on large sheet of original buff paper
signed with monogram insignia and titled in pencil (tertiary mount, recto)
image/sheet: 8 1/8 x 6 1/4 in. (20.8 x 16 cm.)
grey paper mount: 8 7/8 x 7 in. (22.7 x 17.9 cm.)
tertiary mount: 22 1/4 x 15 1/2 in. (57.5 x 39.4 cm.)
The artist;
Gertrude S. Käsebier (1852-1934);
Sotheby's, New York, November 9, 1976, lot 248;
acquired by Helios Arts Inc., New York from the above, 1976;
acquired by Gilman Paper Company from the above, 1977;
Important Photographs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including Works from the Gilman Paper Company Collection, Sotheby's, New York, 14 February 2006, lot 5;
with Babcock Galleries, New York.
This print:
Jean Clair et al., Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1995, pl. 168, cat. 415.
Other prints of this image:
Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Work, New York, no. 2, April 1903, pl. II.
Edward Steichen, A Life in Photography, Doubleday & Company, Inc./The Museum of Modern Art, Garden City, 1963, pl. 8.
Weston J. Naef, The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography, Viking Press/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1978, pl. 453, pp. 444-45.
Joel Smith, Edward Steichen: The Early Years, Princeton University Press/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton, 1999, pl. 2.
Joanne Steichen, Steichen's Legacy: Photographs, 1895-1973, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000, pl. 22.
Todd Brandow and William A. Ewing, Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography, W.W. Norton & Company/The Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the Musée de l'Elysée, New York, London, 2007. pl. 11, p. 32.
Malcolm Daniel, Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand: Works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven, 2010, pl. 56.
Montreal, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe, 8 June - 15 October, 1995, cat. 415, pl. 168.

Lot Essay

We occasionally find ourselves in darker parts of the world, and, as a rule, feel more easy there. What a beautiful hour of the day is that of the twilight when things disappear and seem to melt into each other, and a great beautiful feeling of peace overshadows all. Why not, if we feel this, have this feeling reflect itself in our work?
Edward Steichen

The Pool—Evening: A Symphony to a Race and to a Soul is well-known as one of Edward Steichen’s earliest significant works, having been made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the age of twenty years old. It has the distinction of being one of a small group of three works to be purchased by Alfred Stieglitz during their first meeting in New York City in 1900. The print of this image purchased by Stieglitz at that time was eventually gifted by Georgia O’Keeffe to the Art Institute of Chicago, and bears the inscription ‘Steichen’s first “Masterpiece” on the reverse in Stieglitz’s own hand.

The Pool—Evening was made within the vicinity of the family home in Milwaukee. It is one of a small group of studies of the woods at twilight made around the same time. They are reproduced in Naef 451 and 452, A Life in Photographs, plates 9-12 and Longwell, The Master Prints, plates 3, 5, 6, and 7. In Camera Work, Charles H. Caffin elucidates on this attraction to those wooded areas, in 'The Art of Eduard J. Steichen' (New York, no. 30, April 1910, p. 34) as follows:  

Then Whistler, whose influence few if any moderns have escaped … affected this young man profoundly. He found in the great artist not only technical example but a kinship of spirit. Steichen himself is somewhat arrogantly intolerant of the commonplace; rapturously devout toward that which is choicely beautiful; but, first and foremost, he was keenly sensitive to the master’s abstraction of spirit, to his preference for the expression of the idea. So Steichen sought it where for a while, in the seventies, Whistler sought it, and where we ordinary folk who are not painters seek for it, especially when we are young, namely, in the twilight and the night. It is in the penumbra, between the clear visibility of things and their total extinction in darkness, when the concreteness of appearances becomes merged in half-realized, half-baffled vision, that spirit seems to disengage itself from matter and to envelope it with a mystery of soul-suggestion.

'The Pool—Evening was, in fact, a picture of a puddle of water with mud clots protruding,' Steichen wrote in his autobiography. 'These [woods] became my stamping grounds,' he continues, 'especially during autumn, winter, and early spring. They were particularly appealing on gray or misty days, or very late in the afternoon and at twilight. Under those conditions, the woods had moods, and the moods aroused emotional reactions that I tried to render in photographs … The haunting, elusive quality of twilight excited in me an emotion that I felt compelled to evoke in the images I was making. Emotional reaction to the qualities of places, things, and people became the principal goal in my photography' (A Life in Photography, unpaginated, Chapter 1).

The print on offer here comes originally from a well-known album of photographs, drawings, and gravures given by the artist to the photographer Gertrude Gertrude Käsebier at the turn of the last century. This album was sold by Sotheby’s, as noted, in 1976. Weston Naef surmises that Steichen gave this album to Käsebier in August, 1901. They had first met in Paris in 1900. See Lot 9 of this catalogue for Käsebier’s stunning portrait of the young artist in platinum.

Only three other prints of The Pool—Evening are known; they are each platinum and reside in public institutions: a print in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, donated as a gift of Alfred Stieglitz in 1933; a print in the collection of the Royal Photographic Society, a gift of Frederick Evans in 1937; and a print in the Art Institute of Chicago, a gift of Georgia O’Keeffe in 1949.  

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