The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University houses the Alfred Stieglitz/Georgia O'Keeffe Archive, an extensive archive running 168 linear feet and occupying a total of 256 boxes. The Archive contains correspondence files, manuscripts, documentary ephemera, photographs, art and paraphernalia related to the lives and careers of photographer/publisher/gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) and painter Georgia O'Keeffe (1886-1986), his second wife.
Within Series I Alfred Stieglitz: Correspondence, is the subseries of Stieglitz-O'Keeffe Letters, the comprehensive collection of letters written by Georgia O'Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz and by Alfred Stieglitz to Georgia O'Keeffe spanning the duration of their relationship from 1916 to his death in 1946.
Following a research residency in the summer of 2008, Kavanagh has been working with digital copies of selected letters as subjects for paintings, and on a text that discusses their earliest period of correspondence from 1916 to their first romantic encounter in 1918. The text discusses the dynamic exchange between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz as one of equal power and influence, despite their difference in age and social standing during this period.
After Stieglitz's death in 1946, Georgia O'Keeffe sought to collect all of his personal and professional correspondence and papers, clipping files, scrapbooks, exhibition-related material and other documentary evidence. The estate employed two women, Dorothy Norman (through 1949) and Doris Bry (from 1949), on projects to organize the correspondence and other files, and to gather letters (or copies of letters) that Stieglitz had written to others.
In 1948, Carl Van Vechten suggested to O'Keeffe that she place the Stieglitz archive at the Yale University Library, where it would join other important Modernist writers' and artists' papers in the Yale Collection of American Literature. O'Keeffe visited New Haven in April 1949 and subsequently made arrangements for the transfer of the collection. The bulk of the material arrived in shipments received between 1949 and 1953 by way of Doris Bry, who worked with O'Keeffe in New York and New Mexico to organize Stieglitz's files and to help select art and photographs for inclusion in the archive.
To accompany this core group of Stieglitz materials, between 1953 and 1980 the Yale library acquired additional Stieglitz and Stieglitz-related items from various other sources, through gift, purchase or by exchange, including hundreds of letters or copies of letters written by Stieglitz to his many friends, family and associates. In addition, a significant body of Stieglitz family papers was received by the library for the archive as the gift of Flora Stieglitz Straus and Sue Davidson Lowe. (Additional information about the history and scope of the Alfred Stieglitz Papers may be found in an article written by Doris Bry for The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 25, no. 4, April 1951). Eventually, the library also acquired many of O'Keeffe's own papers. Portions were received from the artist during her lifetime, and the remainder was transferred to the library in 1992 from the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, in accordance with the terms of her will.
All of the material acquired between 1949 and 1980, whether from O'Keeffe or the Stieglitz family, or as the result of O'Keeffe's efforts to document Stieglitz's life and work, plus the O'Keeffe papers transferred to the library by the O'Keeffe Foundation after her death, were combined by the library to create the Alfred Stieglitz/Georgia O'Keeffe Archive. (Other Stieglitz, O'Keeffe and Stieglitz/O'Keeffe-related materials acquired since 1980 are treated as separately cataloged, corollary accessions, not as part of the archive.)
Over the years, library staff as well as O'Keeffe's personal assistants listed or otherwise arranged portions of the Stieglitz papers, but the archive as a whole was not processed and listed until 1994-96. It is now organized into three distinct subgroups: Alfred Stieglitz Papers (Series I-VII), the Georgia O'Keeffe Papers (Series VIII-X), and the Stieglitz Family Papers (Series XI) and fully described in a single register for the Alfred Stieglitz/Georgia O'Keeffe Archive (YCAL MSS 85).