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Between and Mortarboard

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The City of Ambition

Accession Number

The City of Ambition

Alfred Stieglitz

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
photogravure on paper

11 1/2 in x 7 7/8 in (29.21 cm x 20 cm);19 3/8 in x 14 3/8 in (49.21 cm x 36.51 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of the Marvin Felheim Collection

Label copy
The photogravures by Stieglitz published in Camera Work in 1911 (volume 36) include some of his best-known works, such as The Steerage and several views in the train yards of the New York Central railroad. The sequence that includes The City of Ambition was taken along the waterfront and across the river from the bottom of Manhattan. Here, the drama and bustle of the city’s financial district is animated by the steam and smoke of the ferry in its slip and the surrounding buildings. The tallest building in the image, the Singer Building, flies a flag atop its flagpole with a heraldic flourish. The title of the photograph aptly captures the vigor and confidence of New York as a thriving port and city of skyscrapers.
Carole McNamara, Assistant Director for Collections & Exhibitions
on the occasion of the exhibition New York Observed: The Mythology of the City
(July 13 – September 22, 2003)

Subject matter
This photograph is one of a series of images of New York that Alfred Stieglitz made in the mid-1900s. The silhouetted skyline is balanced by the bright sky and sun light reflected on water. At the time, the Singer Building was a new skyscraper. Steam billows out of the tall buildings in the background and mixes with the clouds in the softly rendered sky. Steam pours from the boats floating on the glimmering waterway. The title of the photograph, City of Ambition, refers to the romance of the modern city. Stieglitz, who previously photographed the city from street level, here depicts New York City from across the East River in Brooklyn. On the print, given to Paul Haviland, Stieglitz inscribed, “Does it tower into the skies? Beyond them?"

Physical Description
Photograph of the Singer Building in New York, located at Broadway and Liberty. Open to the public in 1908, it was the tallest building in America for one year. In 1968 it was the world's largest skyscaper to be demolished.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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bodies of water (natural)
modern and contemporary art

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& Author Notes

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