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Photographing O’Keeffe being photographed
Alfred Stieglitz photographing Georgia O’Keeffe, 1924 / Arnold H. Rönnebeck, photographer. Arnold Rönnebeck and Louise Emerson Ronnebeck papers, 1884-2002. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

In her old age, Georgia O’Keeffe described photography sessions with Alfred Stieglitz as work. This rare photo of such a session in progress, one of several that sculptor Arnold H. Rönnebeck took in 1924 at Lake George, pulls back the curtain on the romance with which the world views Stieglitz’s portrait project of O’Keeffe.

What interests me is O’Keeffe’s talent for posing. Even back in Texas, snapshots show her mugging to the camera. She was acutely aware of being-looked-at (while claiming to hate being looked at). What I wonder is, how did that awareness inform her painterly empathy for the objects she painted. Like the flowers. Those showy flowers. Somehow, it seems to me, they benefit from O’Keeffe’s years of posing for Stieglitz.

About Rönnebeck, from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art:
Sculptor Arnold Rönnebeck (1885-1947) was part of the “Stieglitz circle” and settled in Denver where he served as director of the Denver Art Museum from 1926-1931. He was born in Nassau, Germany, and was a noted sculptor and lithographer. From 1905 to 1907, Rönnebeck studied architecture at the Royal Art School in Berlin and spent a year studying sculpture in Munich. In 1908, he moved to Paris where he furthered his studies in sculpture under Aristede Maillol and Emile Bourdelle. From 1914 to 1918, Rönnebeck served as an officer in the German Imperial Army during World War I. In 1923, he emigrated to the United States where he became part of the Stieglitz circle.

Ann Daly PhD is an essayist specializing in women and women's history. She is working on a book about Georgia O'Keeffe.

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