The photographer Edward Steichen discovered Marin's work in Paris, where he was scouting the modern-art scene for Alfred Stieglitz's Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (known as 291), which had opened at 291 Fifth Avenue, New York, in 1905. Operating his gallery in an attic space with walls covered in neutral, burlaplike material, Stieglitz displayed contemporary American and European works on paper in simple wooden frames that evoked "an air of noble poverty," encouraging visitors to look at the art with fresh eyes. Steichen arranged to send some of Marin's watercolors to Stieglitz in the fall of 1908. Although Marin and the gallery owner did not meet until the following June, Stieglitz became a strong advocate of Marin's art as soon as he saw it. In it the dealer found the epitome of the strong, expressive, intuitive art that he believed was the best and most important impulse in modern American practice.

While Stieglitz diligently promoted his own photographic work and that of the "Seven Americans" who came to form his circle, he facilitated more solo shows for Marin over the years than any other artist—including Stieglitz's wife, the artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Marin was also part of virtually every group exhibition held at 291. The now fabled association between Marin and his dealer also resulted in the Art Institute of Chicago's strong holdings of the painter's work. In 1949, three years after her husband's death, O'Keeffe divided the art in Stieglitz's large personal collection, making significant gifts to five American museums, including the Art Institute, which now boasts the largest museum collection of Marin's innovative frames. This collection documents the important innovations that Marin and Stieglitz brought to the presentation and display of the modern watercolor.

Alfred Stieglitz. John Marin, 1922. Alfred Stieglitz Collection.