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Blessed Art Thou Among Women Kasebier, Gertrude  (American, 1852-1934)

"the photograph also evokes the idyllic domesticity of the Arts and Crafts Movement" MET Museum

Gertrude Kasebier did not begin to take photographs until she was almost forty. She had just completed a course in art and her children were on the verge of adulthood. Both circumstances were to shape her work: painting her Pictorialist style, and the role of mother as her choice of subject matter. After practicing with the new medium on members of her family, she opened a studio for portrait photography in Paris in 1894, followed by another in New York in 1897. The mother-child relationship continued to be a central motif in Kasebiers non-commercial work throughout her career. Her double portrait of Agnes Rand Lee, an American writer and author of children’s books, and her daughter Peggy is a case in point. Its title, Blessed Art Thou Among Women, derives from the painting of an Annunciation scene in the background. The angelic look of the mother is underscored by her flowing reform dress. She escorts the little girl through a doorway as if into the wide world. Although the child hesitates on the threshold as if afraid to take the decisive step, her gaze and pose convey self-confidence. Because Peggy died shortly after the picture was taken, Kasebier initially decided not to release it. It became her most famous work, when Alfred Stieglitz published it in the first issue of his pioneering journal Camera Work in 1903, along with other photographs by Kasebier, which similarly relied on Christian iconography, such as The Manger. The death of Peggy was not the last stroke of fate to befall the Lee family. Their other daughter went deaf, causing her pious father, who attributed it to a curse, to leave his wife. When Kasebier photographed Agnes Rand Lee again in 1904, she captured her mood of mourning with almost Symbolist compellingness. (Langer, p. 120)

Reproduced / Exhibited

Doty, Robert M. Photo-secession: Photography As a Fine Art. N.Y: Eastman, 1960. plate XIX.

Fassbender, Adolf, and Christian A. Peterson. The Pictorial Artistry of Adolf Fassbender. , 1994. p. 21

Homer, William I. Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1983. no. 35.

Weaver, Mike. The Photographic Art. Edinburgh, 1986. no. 56

The Art Institute of Chicago