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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Gertrude Kasebier

b. 1852, Des Moines, Iowa; d. 1934, New York

Gertrude Käsebier advanced the cause of fine art photography in America through her successful practice as a portraitist. Around 1898, after studying painting at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, she opened a studio on Fifth Avenue in New York. Using a soft-focus lens and labor-intensive processes such as the platinum print, which yields painterly tonal variations, Käsebier created idyllicized images of her sitters. Her photographs were soon widely acclaimed and frequently exhibited; especially popular were her images of mother and child, a recurring theme in her work. In 1902, Käsebier founded the Photo-Secession with Alfred Stieglitz, Clarence H. White, and Edward Steichen. The group promoted art photography in exhibitions held at Stieglitz’s gallery and in Camera Work. Käsebier resigned from the Photo-Secession in 1912; four years later, she and several other ex-members founded the Pictorial Photographers of America. By the end of the teens, the Pictorialist style of Käsebier and her cohorts had given way to avant-gardism. She closed her studio in 1920.