Date of Degree
Milton W. Brown
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
The photographer Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1934) is best known for her affiliation with Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession. However, as this study shows, she also conducted a successful career as a studio portraitist in New York, and contributed to popular illustrated magazines.
Chapters are devoted to Mrs. Kasebier's professional development, including her education at Pratt Institute, her successes in photographic publications and exhibitions, and her friendships with such photographers and artists as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, F. Holland Day, Baron Adolf de Meyer, Robert Demachy, Frances Benjamin Johnston, and Auguste Rodin. Her portraits of Rodin and his studio are analyzed.
Her relationship to Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession is considered in detail, with particular attention devoted to the first Photo-Secession exhibition in 1902, and to the issues of Camera Work in which Kasebier's photographs were featured. The causes of her disagreement with Stieglitz and her resignation from the Photo-Secession in 1912 are discussed, and her post-Secession work is reassessed.
Much of the dissertation considers the significance of Kasebier's portraits and thematic photographs. The development of her portrait style is traced, and portraits of her colleagues Clarence H. White, Steichen and Stieglitz are used to illustrate Kasebier's ability to capture her subjects' personalities. Her photographs of Sioux Indians are examined; these portraits are shown to be unusual for their day because of Kasebier's interest in individual Indians, rather than in anthropological or symbolic types.
Kasebier's thematic photographs, which include pictures of mothers and children, animal scenes, and other subjects, are shown to be unified by Kasebier's concerns with themes of independence and solitude. Her photographs are set in historical and social context: her seldom-noted concern with women's reform is identified. Kasebier's evident pictorial interest in mothers' granting freedom to their children (a theme which distinguishes her work from most other artists of her time) is explained as springing from ideas of Friedrich Froebel and the kindergarten movement.
The final chapter discusses Kasebier's influence on other photographers.
Michaels, Barbara L., "Gertrude Kasebier: Her Photographic Career, 1894-1929" (1985). CUNY Academic Works.