Before they ever met in person, the eroticism of art itself was integral to the pair’s relationship. From the beginning, Stieglitz adored O’Keeffe’s sensual charcoal lines, forming simple compositions in ripples, swirls, and folds. “They are as if I saw a part of myself,” he proclaimed. Later, his photographs of her resonated with those works. The gentle curves and biomorphic forms in her early, pared-down charcoals find their echoes in his close-up shots of her dark, flowing hair; the shadows along her neck; and slope of her breasts.
Yet from the start, inequities plagued their relationship. In the spring, Stieglitz debuted O’Keeffe’s work without her permission. When O’Keeffe found out, she showed up at 291 and demanded he remove her work from his walls. To pacify her, Stieglitz took her to lunch, and O’Keeffe relented. Despite her romance with political scientist Arthur MacMahon, she began a prolific correspondence with Stieglitz; they would exchange 25,000 pages of letters over the course of their relationship.
Stieglitz himself was married to brewery heiress Emmeline Obermeyer, though he continued to pursue O’Keeffe after she moved to Texas (letters from the time show that she continued to write to MacMahon, as well). O’Keeffe and Strand—united by their status as Stieglitz protégés—were also becoming cozy. Stieglitz even financed a trip for the pair to journey to San Antonio together, where they made art and took walks in town. O’Keeffe even contemplated living with Strand, but she ultimately found the young photographer helpless and exasperating.