A captivating, spirited account of the intense relationship among four artists whose strong personalities and aesthetic ideals drew them together, pulled them apart, and profoundly influenced the very shape of twentieth-century art.
New York, 1921: acclaimed photographer Alfred Stieglitz celebrates the success of his latest exhibition—the centerpiece, a series of nude portraits of his soon-to-be wife, the young Georgia O'Keeffe. The exhibit acts as a turning point for the painter poised to make her entrance into the art scene. There she meets Rebecca Salsbury, the fiancé of Stieglitz’s protégé, Paul Strand, marking the start of a bond between the couples that will last more than a decade and reverberate throughout their lives. In the years that followed, O'Keeffe and Stieglitz become the preeminent couple in American modern art, spurring on each other's creativity. Observing their relationship leads Salsbury to encourage new artistic possibilities for Strand and to rethink her own potential as an artist.
The lives of a quartet of some of the most influential painters and photographers of the early 20th century are chronicled in this intimate and exhaustively researched group biography. Burke (No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf) follows the careers of Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, Paul Strand, and Rebecca Salsbury as they made a " quiet challenge' to those who refused to see photography as art." The book opens in 1921 with Stieglitz's New York City exhibit that contained his works of an unidentified nude that, Burke writes, captured the "creative zest and sexual desire in his portraits." From there, Burke follows Stieglitz, O'Keeffe, Strand, and Salsbury all over New York City as they held popular exhibits, and, later, to Taos, N.Mex., where they became part of the town's art scene. The four inspired each other professionally, through mentorship and as photo subjects (O'Keeffe posed for Stieglitz's early nudes), and romantic relationships between the two couples (Stieglitz and O'Keeffe, Strand and Salsbury) developed: Salsbury once described her connection to Strand by saying, "You... seem to be in my hands, my feet, my breasts, stirring in my womb and outside me too in everything that is beautiful." This biography offers detailed insight into one of the most important periods in American art.