Gertrude Kaesebier

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Gertrude Käsebier (1852–1934) was an American pictorialist photographer. She was known for her evocative images of motherhood, her powerful portraits of Native Americans and her promotion of photography as a career for women.


Gertrude Käsebier was born Gertrude Stanton in Fort Des Moines, Iowa (now Des Moines, the state capitol), on 18 May 1852, to a family of Quaker heritage. From the age of eight to twelve she, along with her parents, John W. Stanton and Muncy Boone Stanton, and younger brother Charles, lived in the Colorado Territory, where her father sought his fortune in the gold rush. After finding success in mining operations, he and his family moved east in 1864, settling in Brook- lyn, New York. Käsebier attended Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from 1868 to 1870. In 1874 she married Eduard Käsebier, a German immigrant and shellac importer six years her senior. Living first in Brooklyn and later in New Jersey, the Käsebiers raised three children before Gertrude decided to pursue a career as a painter, returning to Brooklyn to study at the Pratt Institute from 1889 to 1895. Turning in 1896 to a profession in photography, she apprenticed with Brooklyn portrait photographer Samuel H. Lifshey. Following her apprenticeship she operated a highly regarded portrait studio in New York for thirty years, before physical ailments forced her retirement. A member of the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring from 1900–1909 and of the Photo-Seces- sion from 1902–1912, she knew and exhibited with all of the major pictorial photographers. Käsebier died on 13 October 1934 in New York City at the age of 82. Her husband predeceased her by twenty-five years. Early in her career, she published her photographs in many journals and magazines including The Monthly Illustrator, The World’s Work, Everybody’s Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Harper’s Bazaar. Major exhibitions during Käsebier’s lifetime included the Philadelphia Photographic Salon, Pennsylvania Acad- emy of Fine Arts, 1898, 1899, 1900; The New School of American Photography, curated by F. Holland Day, Royal Photographic Society, London, 1900; American Pictorial Photography Organized by the Photo-Secession, National Arts Club, New York, 1902; and the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1910 [1].