Dorothy Norman Biography
In her photography, writing, activism, and patronage, renaissance woman Dorothy Norman left an impact on the art world through her efforts to advance both art and action. Although best known for writings and civil rights activism, Norman was equally talented as a photographer and printer, despite never self designating it a profession. While her oeuvre included landscapes and still lifes, her lens was most commonly focused on prominent figures that surrounded her in the worlds of art and politics, names like Marcel Duchamp, Albert Einstein, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Thomas Mann and Indira Ghandi. Perhaps her best known work is her extensive documentation of the life and work of fellow photographer (and lover) Alfred Stieglitz in 1934’s America and Alfred Stieglitz, A Collective Portrait.
Born in Philadelphia in 1905, Norman studied at Smith College and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1925 she married Sears & Roebuck heir Edward A. Norman and relocated to New York City. It was in New York that through writing Norman began to champion political causes such as racial equality and women’s rights as well as the careers of artists like Duchamp. Norman met Alfred Stieglitz in 1927 after wandering into his art gallery. Stieglitz encouraged Norman to embrace her love of photography as more than a hobby. His mentorship guided her as she developed her own accomplished style and printing techniques. Norman continued to photograph and print her work until the 1950s, when failing eyesight forced her to set the camera down.
In 1968, Norman donated a collection of photographs by herself and Stieglitz to The Philadelphia Museum of Art which exhibited the works that year. The International Center of Photography exhibited a much broader range of Norman’s work in 1993 with the accompanying monograph, Intimate Visions: The Photographs of Dorothy Norman.
A large collection of Norman’s work is still held today by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as The International Center of Photography and the University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography.