Alfred Stieglitz, L'accoucheur d'idées (The Midwife to Ideas)

Marius de Zayas (Mexican, Veracruz 1880–1961 Stamford, Connecticut)
ca. 1908–9
Charcoal and graphite on paper
24 3/4 x 19 1/8 in. (62.9 x 48.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949
Accession Number:
Not on view
The Metropolitan Museum owns six de Zayas caricature drawings of Alfred Stieglitz, ranging in date from about 1908 to 1915. Some are completely abstract, others more realistic, yet all convey a salient aspect of Stieglitz's physical appearance, personal magnetism, intellectual prowess, or creative genius. Here, in this dark and mysterious charcoal drawing, where figure and ground merge into blackness, Stieglitz's leonine head is illuminated by a white circle of undrawn paper that transforms him into a religious icon. Such dramatic lighting was perhaps inspired by Steichen's photographic portraits of a few years earlier. This drawing may have been included in de Zayas's first exhibition at "291," in January 1909. One critic noted that Stieglitz was "ready and willing to take his own medicine [as] demonstrated by the appearance of a most formidable likeness of himself . . . and De Zayas flatters no one, not even his discoverer." When this caricature was later reproduced in Camera Work in April 1912, it was newly entitled L'Accoucheur d'Idées (The Midwife of Ideas).
the artist (to Stieglitz); Alfred Stieglitz, New York (probably 1909–d. 1946; his estate, 1946–49; gift to MMA)

New York. 291. "Exhibition of Caricatures in Charcoal by Mr. Marius de Zayas; and Autochromes by Mr. J. Nilsen Laurvik," January 4–16, 1909, no catalogue (checklist no. 20) [probably this work].

Philadelphia Museum of Art. "History of an American, Alfred Stieglitz: '291' and After, Selections from the Stieglitz Collection," July 1–November 1, 1944, no. 161 [possibly this work].

Lawrence. Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. "Marius de Zayas: Conjurer of Souls," September 27–November 8, 1981, no. 7.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Marius de Zayas: Conjurer of Souls," December 18, 1981 – February 14, 1982, no. 7.

New York. Center for Inter-American Relations. "Marius de Zayas: Conjurer of Souls," March 2 – April 4, 1982, no. 7.

Washington. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Group Portrait: The First American Avant-Garde," May 10–October 27, 1991, unnumbered cat. (as "L'accoucheur d'idées").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Marius de Zayas & Stieglitz Circle," March 19–June 27, 2004, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe," October 13, 2011–January 2, 2012, no. 224.

Camera Work no. 39 (July 1912), pl. 2, as "L'Accoucheur d'Idées".

Waldo Frank, Lewis Mumford, Dorothy Norman, Paul Rosenfeld, and Harold Rugg, ed. America and Alfred Stieglitz: A Collective Portrait. Garden City, N. Y., 1934, pl. IIB.

Dorothy Norman. Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer. New York, 1973, p. 123.

Craig R. Bailey. "The Art of Marius de Zayas." Arts Magazine 53 (September 1978), p. 140.

Willard Bohn. "The Abstract Vision of Marius de Zayas." Art Bulletin 62 (September 1980), pp. 435–36, 444.

Douglas Hyland. Marius de Zayas: Conjurer of Souls. Exh. cat., Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas, 1981, pp. 34, 76, no. 7, ill. p. 77.

Sarah Whitaker Peters. Becoming O'Keeffe: The Early Years. New York, 1991, p. 150, fig. 61.

Steven Watson. Strange Bedfellows: The First American Avant-Garde. New York, 1991, p. 78, ill.

Robin Jaffee Frank. Charles Demuth: Poster Portraits, 1923–1929. Exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven, 1994, pp. 26, 29, fig. 24.

Marius de Zayas. How, When, and Why Modern Art Came to New York. Ed. Francis M. Naumann. Cambridge, Mass., 1996, p. 78, fig. 96 (printed version).

Lisa Mintz Messinger in Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 220, 223, 286, no. 224, ill. (color).