Scurrying Home Stieglitz, Alfred  (American, 1864-1942)

The art critic Sadakichi Hartmann best described the importance of this image: "Scurrying Home could teach many an artist what composition means . . . . Two Dutch women crossing an open waste of sand, with the Katwyk Church, made famous by modern painters, in the distance. How interesting the texture of the foreground! How well its oblique lines cut those of the middle distance! How well the distance is managed! And how marvelously the figures are placed, considering that if they had been photographed one second sooner or later the picture would have been spoiled. Their movement is as natural as it can be; it suggests the breeziness of the weather… Scurrying Home is a landmark in the domain of camera art and … shows better than any other American photograph I know the possibilities of artistic photography." The location is Katwijk aan Zee a seaside resort located on the North Sea at the mouth of the Oude Rijn in the municipality of Katwijk and the province of South Holland.

It was during Stiegitz’s years as editor of Camera Notes that he began exploring the artistic possibilities of photogravure. In 1897, the very year that Camera Notes commenced, the prestigious publisher R. H. Russell issued Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Stories, a portfolio of twelve of Stieglitz’s best-known early images printed as oversized photogravures. So important was this project to Stieglitz, that he personally made the transparencies used in plate making, and then supervised the printing of the entire edition of photogravures. So pleased was he with the results that he signed a limited deluxe edition of the portfolio and allowed the photogravures to be sold individually. Stieglitz felt these prints had high-art value and were no less intrinsically works of art because they were printed by photogravure. Such photogravures joined the great tradition of fine printmaking established by artists like Durer and Rembrandt. (Peterson)

The photogravures were printed in an edition of twenty-five on plate paper using different ink colors. Stieglitz himself made the steel engravings from the diapositives (positives made from negatives) and used rapid plates to preserve the detail and softness of the originals. In addition, he directly supervised the printing of each image. (Lunn)

A two-page advertisement for the portfolio appeared in a small catalogue issued by publisher RH Russell in 1897 stating specifics for the portfolio as well as photographs, which Stieglitz sold individually. “The twelve subjects, together with an introduction by W.E. Woodbury, are issued in an artistic portfolio. Price, $10.00 There will also be an Edition-De-Luxe in a special binding, limited to forty copies of the first impressions, each plate signed by Mr. Stieglitz. Price, $25.00 Single Proofs of any of the plates. Price, $2.00, each. Artist’s Proofs, signed by Mr. Stieglitz. Price, $5.00, each.”

Even with this marketing push by RH Russell as well as others, it is doubtful that many of the Picturesque Bits portfolios were sold, especially the $25.00 Edition-De-Luxe edition signed by Stieglitz. Book seller catalogues around the turn of the 20th century remaindered original $10.00 “ordinary” copies of the portfolio to $5.00. The now accepted total copies of this seminal portfolio in the history of photography numbers a mere 25 copies: “The photogravures were printed in an edition of twenty-five on plate paper using different ink colors.” NGA

Reproduced / Exhibited

Greenough, Sarah, and Alfred Stieglitz. Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set : the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs. Washington, D.C: National Gallery of Art, 2002. Pl 218
link:https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.35354.html

Exhibited: The Camera Club, New York, “Exhibition of Photographs by Alfred Stieglitz,” 1–15 May, 1899 NY

Hartmann, Sadakichi. Landscape and Figure Composition. New York: The Baker and Taylor Company, 1910. fig. 114

Homer, William I, Catherine Johnson, and Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession, 1902. London: Penguin Putnam, 2002

Stieglitz, Alfred, Richard Whelan, and Sarah Greenough. Stieglitz on Photography: His Selected Essays and Notes. New York, NY: Aperture Foundation, 2000. p. 56

Hoffman, Katherine. Stieglitz: A Beginning Light. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. no. 153

Jussim, Estelle. Slave to Beauty: The Eccentric Life and Controversial Career of F. Holland Day, Photographer, Publisher, Aesthete. Boston: Godine, 1981. p. 95

Homer, William I. Alfred Stieglitz and the American Avant-Guarde. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1979. no. 6.

Photography: the first eighty years, Colnaghi, London, 1976, pg 212 New York Graphic Society, New York, 1977, pg 18

References

Picturesque New York was apparently an earlier title of the portfolio. See Photo-Secession: Catalogue 6 [exh. cat., Lunn Gallery, Graphics International Ltd.] (Washington, 1977), 124–125.

Stieglitz, “Reviews and Exchanges: ‘Nach der Natur’,” Camera Notes 1 (January 1898), 85.

William M. Murray, “Reviews and Exchanges: ‘Picturesque Bits of New York, and Other Studies,’” Camera Notes 1 (January 1898), 84–85.

https://www.nga.gov/research/online-editions/alfred-stieglitz-key-set/portfolios-and-published-photographs.html

Alfred Stieglitz | The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs: Volume Two 1923-1937: Sarah Greenough: National Gallery of Art, Washington| Harry N. Abrams, Inc. : 2002: p. 937

https://photoseed.com/collection/group/picturesque-bits-of-new-york-and-other-studies/ (cited Oct. 11, 2022)

Trachtenberg, Alan; Reading American photographs: Images as History: Mathew Brady to Walker Evans‬: 1989: Hill and Wang: New York: p. 184

Peterson Christian A et al. Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Notes. 1st ed. Published by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Association with W.W. Norton 1993.

Lunn Photo-Secession: Catalogue 6 [exh. cat., Lunn Gallery, Graphics International Ltd.] (Washington, 1977), 124–125.