Alfred Stieglitz was the most famous photographer in America, and a forceful advocate for advanced art of all kinds, when a nervous 25-year-old Paul Strand brought his photographs to Stieglitz's influential Manhattan gallery at 291 Fifth Ave. in 1915. The work gained Strand a favored position among the acolytes dedicated to the older artist's mission of “offering new ways to see the world.”
The Stieglitz-Strand connection was the first in the tangled weave of personal and professional ambitions anatomized in “Foursome,”Carolyn Burke's sharp-eyed group portrait of two artistic couples.
The year after Strand arrived, Georgia O'Keeffe dispatched a roll of her charcoal sketches to 291, inspired by the gallery's exalted atmosphere. Her swirling expressions of “a woman's feeling” so overwhelmed Stieglitz that he put them on display without telling the artist. When she stormed in to complain, it launched a charged relationship in which O'Keeffe played multiple roles as Stieglitz's protegee, muse, lover and — reluctantly, in 1924 — wife.