Sarah Sears

(1858 - 1935) American


Sarah Sears was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a prominent Boston family. Trained as a painter, she received prizes for her watercolors at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. She began taking photographs in the 1890s, and pursued a photographic career between 1900 and 1909. Her work was first included in The New American Photography, an exhibition curated by Boston photographer F. Holland Day, which traveled to London in 1900 and Paris in 1901. Beyond her talent for portraiture and flower studies, Sears was valued by Day and Alfred Stieglitz for her potential as a benefactor. When Day was courting Stieglitz's support for the creation of the American Association of Artistic Photography, a never-established counterpart to London's Linked Ring Brotherhood of fine-art photographers, Sears was considered a possible financial resource who could use her power to arrange for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to host the Association's first exhibition. She was elected to the Linked Ring in 1904, and promoted from associate to elected fellow of Stieglitz's Photo-Secession that same year. Her work was reproduced in 1907 in Stieglitz's journal, Camera Work; the last exhibition of her photography was at a 1909 group show at the National Arts Club in New York.
Sears was one of the few women photographers to gain entry into Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession and have her work reproduced in Camera Work. Her images are distinguished by their lush tonality and the fullness of their forms. Following the standard set by such contemporaries as Edward Steichen and others in Stieglitz's circle, Sears declined to identify her sitters in publication captions.
Meredith Fisher
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 227.
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