Date of Publication:
Mar. 1915 – Feb. 1916
Place(s) of Publication:
New York, NY
Frequency of Publication:
291 Publishing, 291 Fifth Avenue, New York
4 – 6 pages. Deluxe Version: 19.5″x12″ printed on fine Japanese Vellum paper. Standard Version: 19.5″x12″ printed on standard non-glossy paper
Paul de Haviland, Marius de Zayas, Agnes Meyer (Editorial Contributors)
Libraries with Complete Original Issues:
National Gallery of Art; Northwestern University; Columbia University; The Museum of Modern Art
PDFs of full run available online at the University of Iowa’s International Dada Archive
Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI, 2004. (Little Magazines. American 1910 – 1919) [Microform].
New York: Arno Series of Contemporary Art, with an introduction by Dorothy Norman
Although it lasted only a year and was seen by many as a failed elitist experiment, 291 succeeded in its effort to “weld together the plastic and the literary arts” (Abrahams 194). Named for Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue, the magazine was a forum for avant-garde photography, literature, and art; like the gallery, Stieglitz intended for his magazine to unite all forms of art on equal levels.
291 arose at the prompting of close friend and fellow artist Marius de Zayas along with moneyed enthusiasts Agnes Meyer and Paul de Haviland, who thought that the new project would revitalize the “sturdy Islet of enduring independence in the besetting seas of Commercialism and Convention” that the war had brought (Whelan 337). Selling only about one hundred copies of both the regular and deluxe subscriptions, the four to six page 291 gave away almost as many copies as it sold. With radical Dadaist principles that did not appeal to a mass audience, the magazine turned out to be “nothing more than an experiment, and a means to give de Zayas, Mrs. Meyer, Katharine Rhoades, and some others a chance to experiment” (Leavens 128). Its failure to sell forced the magazine’s demise after twelve issues, but in its short run it helped publicize the works of Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Katharine Rhoades, and other artists and authors.
While the editors of 291 never published a manifesto, Close Up magazine offered a powerfully idealized description of what the gallery 291 and its community meant. These responses by Eugene Meyer to Stieglitz’s question, “What is ‘291’?” were printed in the January 1915 issue of Close Up:
“An oasis of real freedom –
A sturdy Islet of enduring independence in the besetting seas of Commercialism and Convention –
A rest – when wearied
A stimulant – when dulled
A Relief –
A Negation of Preconceptions
A Forum for Wisdom and for Folly
A safety valve for repressed ideas –
An Eye Opener
A Test –
A Victim and an Avenger.”
Alfred Stieglitz (Jan. 1, 1864 – Jul. 13, 1946)
Editor: Mar. 1915 – Feb. 1916
A German-American Jew born in Hoboken, NJ in 1846, Alfred Stieglitz was the preeminent photographer of the Modernist period. As an artist Stieglitz was rabidly anti-commercial; his primary concern was the elevation of photography to the realm of high art by breaking away from conventional notions of photography, and he cared little for sacrificing his art to the mass appeal of the American public. In 1897 Stieglitz co-founded the Camera Club of New York and served as editor for the club’s magazine, Camera Notes. He left five years later to found the school of Photo Secession, which defined itself as “seceding from the accepted idea of what constitutes a photograph;” Stieglitz’s new magazine, Camera Work, appeared in 1903 as the public face of the movement (Stieglitz). 291 Fifth Avenue, a fifteen square foot room of avant-garde art and photography, became home to Stieglitz and his contemporaries in their artistic endeavors. By 1915 these artists felt the 291 could use reinvigoration, so Stieglitz, as well as fellow artists and financiers, created a public representative–the short-lived magazine 291.
Cover Design (No. 9)
Paul B. Haviland
C. Max Jacob
“La Vie Artistique”
“A Bunch of Keys”
Cover Design (No. 4)
Agnes E. Meyer
“How Versus Why”; “Mental Reactions”; “Woman”
Fille Née Sans Mère
Cover Design (No. 5)
Portrait d’une Jeune Fille Américaine dans l’État de Nudité
“We Live in a World”
Oil and Vinegar Castor
Cover Design (No. 10)
“I Walked into a Moment of Greatness”
“What is Rotten in the State of Denmark”
One Hour’s Sleep – Three Dreams
Cover Design (No. 3)
Marius de Zayas
Cover Design (No. 1)
“New York n’a pas Vu D’abord”
“Modern Art…Negro Art….”
Ades, Dawn. Dada and Surrealism Reviewed. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978.
Hoffman, Frederick J., Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1947.
Images. “Digital Dada Library Collection.” The International Dada Archive. 2007. University of Iowa. 14 July 2009.
Images. The Blue Mountain Project. Princeton University. Web. 1 Jul 2016.
Leavens, Ileana. From 291 to Zurich: the Birth of Dada. Ann Arbor, MI.: UMI Research Press, 1983.
Norman, Dorothy. Ed. 291, Nos. 1-12. New York: Arno Press, 1972.
Steiglitz, Alfred. Transcribed by Cary Ross (1942). “The Origin of the Photo-Secession and How It Became 291.” Twice A Year (8-9).
Tashjian, Dickran. Skyscraper Primitives. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1975.
Whelan, Richard. Alfred Stieglitz: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1995.
de Zayas, Marius, and Paul Haviland. A Study of the Modern Evolution of Plastic Expression. New York: 291, 1912.
“291” compiled by Alex Entrekin (Class of ’06, Davidson College)