Paul Strand was introduced to Alfred Stieglitz by his teacher Lewis Hine, and quickly became part of the coterie of painters and photographers that gathered at Stieglitz's gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue. There he was exposed to the latest trends in European vanguard art through groundbreaking exhibitions of Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Brancusi. Strand incorporated their abstracting compositional techniques into his work, marrying the new language of geometric surface design to his interest in street life and machine culture.
Strand's vision of the city during these years often focuses on the problematic exchange between the sweep and rigor of the urban grid with the human lives that inhabit and pass through it. From the El is a good example of this dialectical approach, with the graphic power of the ironwork and street shadows punctuated by the tiny, lone pedestrian at the upper right. Strand addresses the effects of the new urban condition obliquely here, embedding a subtle political statement within the formal structure of the image.
Inscription: Inscribed and signed in blue pencil on print, verso CL: "From the "El" // 1915- '' Paul Strand"; inscribed in pencil on print, verso LC, LR: "Under the El", "7-1944-362"
Paul Strand; Alfred Stieglitz
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz," May 18, 1978–July 16, 1978.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "American Photographs from the Permanent Collection," June 1, 1980–August 1, 1980.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Photographs from the Museum's Collection," December 4, 1984–March 17, 1985.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 11," November 13, 1995–March 11, 1996.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paul Strand and His Contemporaries," February 10, 1998–May 31, 1998.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "Paul Strand: Circa 1916," June 19, 1998–September 15, 1998.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Charles Sheeler's Contemporaries," June 3, 2003–August 17, 2003.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand," November 8, 2010–April 10, 2011.
Tompkins, Calvin. Paul Strand: Sixty Years of Photographs. Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, 1976. no. 9.
Hambourg, Maria Morris. Paul Strand: Circa 1916. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. no. 13.
Barro, Lisa. "The Deterioration of Paul Strand's Satista Prints." Topics in Photographic Preservation 10 (2003). pp. 37–54.
This print is made from an enlarged negative. There is a 0.3 - 0.5 cm. black border surrounding the image which is included in the image size dimensions. Additional MMA negative: MM 58915