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While summering in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1899, Gertrude Käsebier staged and shot this photograph in a stable. She enlisted her friend, illustrator Frances Delehanty, to model for the image.

The photograph’s title references the Biblical story of the birth of Christ. But despite the implied narrative, Käsebier was more interested in creating a formal study of shade and tone than in telling a story or setting a mood.

In her other images of mothers with children, Käsebier typically showed the face of one figure in order to enhance the narrative content of the composition. For “The Manger,” she obscured Delehanty’s face in shadow and merely suggested the infant’s body with folds of swaddling cloth. (In fact, there was no baby within the drapery on Delehanty’s lap.)

Käsebier was a founding member of the Photo-Secession, a group of photographers dedicated to promoting Pictorialism and the expressive capabilities of the photographic image. Pictorialist photographers often used soft-focus or manipulated their film negatives to elevate their photographs above mere transcriptions of the physical world.

Alfred Stieglitz, a fellow founder of the Photo-Secession, published “The Manger” in the inaugural issue of his influential journal “Camera Work” in 1903.


  • Titel: The Manger
  • Ersteller: Gertrude Käsebier
  • Datum: 1899/1899
  • selected exhibition history: “Gertrude Käsebier, Photographer,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992; “A Pictorial Heritage: The Photographs of Gertrude Käsebier,” Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, 1979
  • artist profile: Gertrude Käsebier was a leading member of the pioneering photographic movement known as Pictorialism, which emphasized a subjective, painterly approach to photography rather than a documentary one. Though she had long been interested in art, Käsebier only began her formal training at the Pratt Institute after her children entered high school. She planned to be a painter, but eventually switched to photography. Following classes in Paris and apprenticeships with a German photographic chemist and a Brooklyn portrait photographer, Käsebier opened her own portrait studio in 1897. She achieved immediate success: attracting wealthy clients, exhibiting her work, and receiving enthusiastic reviews. In addition to portraits, Käsebier produced photographic landscapes and figure studies. In 1902, Käsebier joined noted American photographer Alfred Stieglitz and others to found the Photo-Secession, an organization that promoted Pictorialism. Käsebier was an active member of Stieglitz’s circle, which included Edward Steichen and Clarence White. Her work was featured in the inaugural issue of Steiglitz’s periodical “Camera Work,” and she had an important exhibition at 291, Stieglitz’s radical New York gallery. With the help of one of her daughters, Käsebier (whose husband had died in 1910) continued to run her portrait studio until 1927. She had a major exhibition of her work at the Brooklyn Museum two years later.
  • Training: Private lessons, Crécy-en-Brie, France, summers 1893–94; Private lessons, Berlin, 1893–94; Pratt Institute, New York, 1889–93; Private lessons, New York, 1885–90
  • Abmessungen: w5.5 x h7.625 in (Without frame)
  • Typ: Photograph
  • Rechte: Gift of the Holladay Foundation; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • Externer Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Material: Platinum print

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