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Workers' parade

Platinum or palladium print, tipped to thin board, signed and dated in pencil on the mount, 1926 Tina Modotti moved to Mexico City in 1923 with her lover and photographic mentor Edward Weston.  From the time of their arrival, the two became involved in the city’s artistic and political circles.  Modotti’s embrace of Mexican culture was stronger than that of Weston, who, by turns inspired and exasperated by the country, remained focused foremost on the formal concerns of his photography.  By contrast, Modotti’s sensitivity to the plight of the Mexican people and her involvement in radical politics became factors in much of her work.  In Workers’ Parade, taken during a 1926 May Day demonstration, Modotti masterfully balances these social concerns with her aesthetic sensibilities.  In it, the solidarity and strength of a crowd of Mexican workers is made manifest in a rhythmic, almost abstract composition.   The print offered here was given by Modotti to Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952), Soviet minister to Mexico in 1926 and 1927.  Kollontai became an active member of the Russian Social-Democratic Worker’s Party in 1898.  An ardent and radical feminist, she campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights, advocated free love and the simplification of marriage and divorce procedures, and fought for the removal of social and legal stigmas attached to illegitimate children.  She was the first female Soviet diplomat and served in Norway and Sweden, as well as Mexico. Like Modotti, Kollontai loved Mexico and entered enthusiastically into Mexico City’s cultural life.  A consummate diplomat, the well-dressed, elegant Kollontai mixed easily with the various strata of Mexican society, hosting black-tie dinners at the Russian embassy and at cultural events, among them the public screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.  Modotti and Kollontai became close friends during this time, and upon Kollontai’s departure from Mexico, Modotti gave her this print, as well as Calla Lily, Elisa Kneeling, and her own portrait of the diplomat.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-12-12
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Rayograph (with coil, handkerchief, and chain)

Photogram, a unique object, signed by the photographer in pencil on the image, with reduction notations, in French, in an unidentified hand in pencil on the reverse, tipped to a mount, the mount with the annotation ‘Top’ in an unidentified hand in pencil on the reverse, framed, 1924 This early Rayograph captures the mystery and sly beauty present in the best of Man Ray’s photograms from the early 1920s.  Composed in his darkroom, without the use of a camera, it presents a tableau suggestive of a landscape, but ultimately resists such easy interpretation. Like Man Ray himself, this Rayograph comprises its own unique category within the art of the 20th century.  Man Ray scholar Steven Manford notes that this early Rayograph was reproduced in the May-June 1925 issue of Les Feuilles Libres, along with three other Rayographs and six of Man Ray’s cliché-verre images.  This all-Man Ray issue included an essay by Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, who, four years later, in 1929, would publish the first book on the artist and his work.  Man Ray’s association with Les Feuilles Libres had been established in 1922, when the magazine featured the first publication of a Rayograph. This Rayograph comes originally from the collection of distinguished curator and author, Jacob Bean (1923-1992). Bean was Curator of Drawings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1960 through the early 1990s, where he concentrated on works by Italian and French masters of the 17th and 18th centuries, and co-authored several definitive books.  A man of diverse experience, he had worked previously as a fact checker for The New Yorker magazine, as a guest curator at the Louvre, and, in the 1940s, in the pioneering gallery of Julien Levy.  It is possible Bean acquired this Rayograph at that time.  In his memoirs, Julien Levy recounted: ‘Most of my secretaries, each in turn, became involved in the life of the gallery.  They were underpaid, but for the most part devoted and loyal.  Having intimate relations with the customary heartbreaking state of my accounts, each did his or her best to interest some friends of their own in buying . . . Many of those who worked for me went on to bigger things . . . Jacob Beane [sic] later became curator of Prints and Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum' (Memoir of an Art Gallery, p. 86). Another Rayograph from Bean’s collection was sold in these rooms in October 1993 (Sale 6468, Lot 361). A Rayograph of the same dimensions as the one offered here, utilizing three of the same elements—the chain, the handkerchief, and the unidentified jewel-like object—is owned by the Yale University Art Gallery (Acc. No. 1941.660).  Yale’s Rayograph is signed and dated 1924 by Man Ray and was given to the University in 1937 by Katherine Dreier.  Dreier was a founding member in 1920, with Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, of the Societé Anonyme, a group devoted to promoting new art.  The Societé Anonyme was responsible for giving many Americans their introduction to Dada, Surrealism, and other cutting-edge work of the time. This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the Rayographs being prepared by Steven Manford.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-03-31
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'identical twins (cathleen and colleen), roselle, n. j.'

Signed, titled, and dated by the photographer in ink on the reverse, matted, framed, 1967 Diane Arbus’s Identical Twins (Cathleen and Colleen), Roselle, N. J., has become, since the photographer’s death, the image that is most associated with her large body of work.  The photograph was chosen as the cover illustration for what was, until recently, Arbus’s only retrospective monograph.  It served, too, as inspiration for the recurring motif of twin girls that appears throughout Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining.  Embodying a culmination of the strongest themes in Arbus’s work – her fascinations with children, aberrance, and identity, among them – this signature image has never lost its power to engage. The black borders on the print of Identical Twins offered here indicate that it was made between 1967 and 1969.  In Diane Arbus: Revelations, Neil Selkirk gives a detailed account of Arbus’s evolving printing technique, using Identical Twins as an example.  Originally, the 2 ¼-inch format negative carrier of Arbus’s enlarger revealed a slightly cropped version of her negatives.  To show an entire exposure, Arbus turned to a ‘filed-out’ negative carrier which revealed the complete image, as well as a thin band of the surrounding film.  The resulting photographs had a full or partial black border on two, three, or four sides.  Arbus printed her photographs this way between 1967 and late 1969, at which time she changed negative carriers again, and began producing images with softer borders, with only an occasional hint of a black edge (Diane Arbus: Revelations, pp. 270-71).

  • USAUSA
  • 2004-04-27
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Man in Polyester Suit

Signed, dated, and editioned '7/15' in ink in the margin, flush-mounted, the photographer's copyright stamp, signed and dated in ink, on the reverse, 1980 Robert Mapplethorpe's iconic Man in Polyester Suit—made at the peak of his abilities as a photographer, and just as his work was beginning to attract international attention—became a signature image within his oeuvre from the time of its creation in 1980.  It was frequently exhibited during Mapplethorpe’s lifetime, and illustrated in the accompanying publications and other catalogues of his work. In 1981, Mapplethorpe featured it in his Z portfolio of black male nudes.  The provocative nature of the image, the technical perfection of its execution, and the extreme reactions it inspired, make Man in Polyester Suit an encapsulation of Mapplethorpe’s impact upon the art and culture of the 20th century.  Thirty-five years after its making, when Mapplethorpe and his work are receiving renewed attention, Man in Polyester Suit has lost none of its resonance.  Until photography became his sole artistic pursuit, Mapplethorpe’s work consisted of assemblages that frequently employed appropriated photographic or photomechanical elements.  He began working with photography in 1971, when he was given a Polaroid camera by the artist and filmmaker Sandy Daley.  Photography quickly became his medium of choice, and he had his first solo photographic show in 1973: an exhibition of Polaroids at Light Gallery.  By the early 1970s, Mapplethorpe had begun to address the themes that he would continue to explore throughout his career: homosexuality, eroticism, transgression, flowers, and portraits.  During this period he also refined his craft and approach. While multiple-image compositions and mixed media tended to dominate the work of the early 1970s, by the end of the decade Mapplethorpe had begun to concentrate upon single, stand-alone images. He was sufficiently confident in his craft by that time to produce large-format, beautifully rendered prints of his best images. By 1980, the year in which Man in Polyester Suit was made, we begin to see the emergence of the Mapplethorpe aesthetic. Man in Polyester Suit is exemplary of Mapplethorpe’s new approach.  He had, in 1980, largely moved past the shock effects of his sadomasochistic imagery and embarked upon a more nuanced photographic investigation of eroticism and homosexuality. The motivations behind his best work remained intensely personal.  The subject of Man in Polyester Suit is Mapplethorpe's lover, Milton Moore, with whom he had a tempestuous and ultimately doomed relationship. It is a testament to Mapplethorpe's talent that out of the messiness of his physical and emotional entanglement with Moore he could create this technically perfect, highly stylized, and cheekily transgressive image. Mapplethorpe's friend, the writer and editor Ingrid Sischy, referred to Man in Polyester Suit as the photographer's 'wryest image of all’ (The New Yorker, 13 November 1989). Critic Arthur C. Danto has suggested that Man in Polyester Suit is Mapplethorpe’s masterpiece. As an artist and a photographer, Mapplethorpe was, above all, a master of beauty. His attention to detail, his gifts for lighting and composition, and his exacting craftsmanship transformed each object before his camera into an idealized symbol.  The present image artfully demonstrates Mapplethorpe’s ability to present an image that is both shocking in content but also technically and aesthetically perfect. In a body of work generally considered controversial, Man in Polyester Suit was, from the start, one of Mapplethorpe’s most conspicuous images.  It was exhibited in no fewer than 20 international museum and gallery venues during his lifetime, including his 1981 exhibition at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, and his multi-venue 1983 retrospective originating at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art.  The photograph was famously impounded by customs officials at Heathrow airport upon its arrival in London for that exhibition, along with Mapplethorpe’s portrait of artist Louise Bourgeois holding a phallic sculpture.  Man in Polyester Suit was shown in the Whitney Museum’s 1988 retrospective, and was a cornerstone image in his Black Males exhibition shown in Amsterdam, New York, and Rome in the early 1980s, as well as in The Black Book, published in 1986. Its status as one of Mapplethorpe’s most notorious images was cemented by its inclusion in The Perfect Moment, the most important exhibition of the photographer’s work and one of the most controversial museum shows of the twentieth century.  Originating at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1988, and slated for six subsequent museum venues in America, The Perfect Moment became a lightning rod for artistic freedom in the United States when images in the show were deemed obscene by conservative lawmakers.  The outcry was led by Senator Jesse Helms, who, on the floor of the U. S. Senate, delivered an impassioned speech against the photographs. The resulting controversy—which played out against the grim backdrop of the AIDS crisis and Mapplethorpe’s own recent death from the disease—encompassed debates about freedom of expression, obscenity, and government funding for the arts. Fueled by worldwide media coverage, the controversy surrounding The Perfect Moment reached a new fervor when the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., abruptly cancelled its plans to show the exhibition.  The reaction of the cultural community was swift, and the non-profit artist-run organization Washington Project for the Arts quickly stepped in to take over the exhibition.  On the day that the exhibition was to have opened at the Corcoran, laser artist Rockne Krebs projected Mapplethorpe’s images onto the museum’s façade. Senator Helms continued to call stridently in Congress for tighter controls on grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and pressure mounted in Cincinnati for the Contemporary Arts Center, the exhibition’s subsequent venue, to also cancel the show.  When the Center’s director Dennis Barrie refused, the Center was raided by police, and he and his institution were charged with obscenity.  In the much-anticipated trial that followed, Barrie and the Contemporary Arts Center were ultimately acquitted by the jury, who upheld the Center's right to exhibit the photographs.  The sensational media coverage of The Perfect Moment and the trial that followed placed Mapplethorpe firmly on the international stage as a standard-bearer for artistic integrity.  Seen from the distance of twenty-five years, the Cincinnati trial engendered one of the most significant public discussions on the issue of art and its position within American society. The vitriol directed at The Perfect Moment, at images like Man in Polyester Suit, and at Mapplethorpe himself during this period recalls the outcry that met the debut of Edouard Manet’s Olympia in the Paris Salon of 1865.  The painting’s frank depiction of a nude prostitute, who regards the viewer directly, completely unnerved the artistic establishment.  Manet’s work had caused controversy before – Le déjeuner sur l’herbe had been refused from the Salon of 1863 – but the reaction to Olympia focused an unprecedented amount of brutally critical attention, and attendant public scorn, on Manet.  While Mapplethorpe was branded a pornographer, Manet was derided as a ‘recidivist of the monstrous and immoral.’ Public vilification was the cost that Manet and Mapplethorpe, among others, paid for exhibiting images which challenged accepted ways of portraying the body in art. In subsequent years, Man in Polyester Suit has remained one of Mapplethorpe’s most enduring images.  It has been included in the key exhibitions of his work worldwide and is reproduced in the major monographs on the photographer.  Prints of the image are in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Getty Research Institute/Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The photograph offered here, from a private collector in Amsterdam, has a distinguished and direct provenance.  It was acquired from Amsterdam’s Galerie Jurka in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and has remained in the same collection ever since.  Rob Jurka was one of the first dealers in Europe to handle and promote Mapplethorpe’s work.  He first showed Mapplethorpe’s photographs in 1979, and published an accompanying catalogue.  In 1980, Galerie Jurka was the debut venue for Mapplethorpe’s Black Males exhibition; again, Jurka published a catalogue for the show, with an introduction by Edmund White.  Galerie Jurka would go on to hold one-man shows of Mapplethorpe’s work in 1981, 1982, and 1988, making Rob Jurka one of Mapplethorpe’s most constant European champions. Mapplethorpe’s file card for Man in Polyester Suit, now in the collection of the Getty Research Institute, shows that six of the 15 editioned prints of this image were offered through Galerie Jurka. Prints of Man in Polyester Suit are surprisingly rare in the market.  An editioned print, such as that offered here, has not come up for auction since 1992, when a print was sold in these rooms.  Sotheby’s had previously sold a print in 1991.  The print offered here represents the photograph’s first appearance at auction in twenty-three years.

  • USAUSA
  • 2015-10-07
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EDWARD SHERIFF CURTIS

EDWARD SHERIFF CURTIS The North American Indian, Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States & Alaska Seattle, WA: New York; and Cambridge, MA: University Press. 1907-30. Edited by Frederick Webb Hodge, Field Research conducted under the patronage of J. Pierpont Morgan & Foreword by Theodore Roosevelt. A complete set, numbered 147, from an edition of approximately 272 of the proposed edition of 500. Comprising 20 Text volumes, containing approximately 1,504 (of 1,505) small-format photogravures, 4 maps and 2 diagrams (lacking frontispiece vol. 1); and 20 accompanying Portfolio volumes, containing approximately 723 large-format photogravures, the majority printed on Japanese tissue, with the exception of portfolio vol. 1 entirely, vol. 2, pls. 39 and 68 only, vol. 3, pls. 84, 86 only, and vol. 4 entirely, all on Van Gelder Holland; text vols. 13 & 14 on Japanese vellum, vols. 16-20 on Van Gelder Holland - altogether 40 volumes. 4to (text and small-format photogravures in 20 volumes), bound in original half-brown morocco gilt by H. Blackwell; and large folio, (supplementary large photogravure plates in 20 portfolios), bound in library buckram. (text vols. with perforated library stamps all titles and some pp. 334, ink stamps sequentially numbered 218145-218164 on contents pages, library label with typed accession number tipped to the inside front covers, paper label with accession number in ink affixed to the inside back covers, some end covers renewed; portfolio vols. with accession numbers in pencil and ink stamps sequentially numbered 218239-218257 on the reverse of the titles and University of Tennessee ink stamps on mounts or the verso margins of the large photogravure plates, occasional foxing to large photogravures in portfolio volumes 1-12, occasional wrinkling to large photogravures in portfolio volumes 13-20).

  • USAUSA
  • 1995-04-05
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Two shells

Mounted to large buff-colored card, signed and dated by the photographer in pencil on the mount, matted, 1927 According to James Rochlis’s notes, the photograph offered here was his first photographic purchase, in May of 1969. As Rochlis wrote in his unpublished memoir of the Witkin Gallery, "After we purchased our first Weston--a beautiful signed print of the shell series, Two Shells, 1927, this led to a series of other purchases over a ten-year period, Weston, Kuehn, Hine, Evans, Atget, and of current-day artists Cunningham, Tice, Uelsmann, Adams, Callahan, Gene Smith. The group included all manner of print media—silver, platinum, bromoil-transfer." Weston scholarship, one of the most flourishing branches of all of photography scholarship at the present time, was vastly different in 1969, the year that James and Riva Rochlis began collecting photographs. Indeed, published volumes on Weston’s work at that time were few. Long out-of-print, but possibly accessible, would have been Merle Armitage’s The Art of Edward Weston (1932), as well as Edward Weston: Fifty Photographs (1947). Along with magazine articles, and these two important anthologies, there was the 1946 catalogue of The Museum of Modern Art’s Edward Weston exhibition, a volume which Rochlis bought from Witkin at the time of the Two Shells purchase. There was, however, no Weston biography (Ben Maddow’s Edward Weston: Fifty Years did not appear until 1973), and more important, no published work by Amy Conger, whose definitive Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center of Creative Photography (Tucson, 1992), was decades away. With no books or auction catalogues as guides, Rochlis nonetheless acquired what today is considered the earliest, and for some connoisseurs, the best, state of a Weston shell image: printed on matte-surface paper, affixed to a large, early mount, with the photographer’s early signature. Later, Weston would switch to a glossier paper, and as he made more prints from the negative of the Two Shells, would begin to number the prints in a projected edition of fifty. Weston’s log book at the Center for Creative Photography indicates that eighteen numbered prints were made from this negative. The Rochlis print precedes this numbered edition, and the considerable expense this purchase entailed in 1969 seems more than justified with over thirty years of hindsight. Provenance notes kept by the Rochlises indicate that the present print likely came from the collection of the artist Rockwell Kent. Given the documented connections between Weston and Kent, this provenance is entirely possible. In March of 1928, Weston wrote to Kent, a contributing editor of Creative Art magazine, suggesting that certain West Coast artists--specifically, Henrietta Shore and Edward Weston—merited attention. Weston offered to send photographs of their work for Kent’s consideration (Daybook, California, p. 52). There is no record of Kent’s reply to Weston’s letter, but in August 1928, Creative Art magazine did publish an article by Weston entitled ‘From My Day Book’ (reprinted in Bunnell, Edward Weston on Photography, pp. 48-52). Another of Weston’s double-shell photographs (Conger 545) was used to illustrate the article. Although there are few further published documents between Kent and Weston, we know that in 1936, Weston included Rockwell Kent in a list of sponsors for his first Guggenheim fellowship. Sotheby’s would like to thank Amy Rule of the Center for Creative Photography, Paul Hertzmann and Susan Herzig, and Rockwell Kent scholar Scott Ferris for their contributions to this entry.

  • USAUSA
  • 2003-10-17
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'chez mondrian'

On carte-postale, on the original full vellum mount, signed and inscribed ‘Paris’ by the photographer in pencil on the mount, framed, 1926 It is believed that this print of Chez Mondrian is the only vintage carte-postale print, on a vellum exhibition mount, in private hands. This print of Chez Mondrian, arguably Kertesz’s most famous image, was part of a group of 21 vintage photographs from the 1920s discovered in a portfolio among the photographer’s effects three years after his death.  Each of these photographs was printed on Kertesz’s preferred carte-postale paper and carefully mounted by Kertesz to a heavy vellum paper stock.  Also in the portfolio was the announcement for Kertesz’s first exhibition in Paris, in 1927, at the Au Sacre Printemps gallery, as well as an envelope printed with Kertesz’s Boulevard du Montparnasse studio address.  With its contents of perfect exhibition-quality prints and related material, the portfolio served as a time-capsule from the seminal decade of Kertesz’s career.  The present print of Chez Mondrian was the prize of that group. Using the contents of the Au Sacre Printemps exhibition as a template, 16 photographs were added to the original portfolio by Toronto photographs dealer Jane Corkin, who had been Kertesz’s friend and became a representative of his estate after his death.  Through Corkin, the newly-enlarged group of photographs went as a whole to private collectors.  In April 1997, the collection was dispersed at auction, and this print was purchased by Joseph and LaVerne Schieszler at that time. With its meticulous rendering of the painter Piet Mondrian’s immaculate Paris apartment, Chez Mondrian has become a justly celebrated image.  It is reproduced in nearly every monograph on Kertesz’s work, as well as countless anthologies of photography.  And while there are many prints of the image in existence, the majority of them made after 1970, there are relatively few vintage prints.  It is believed that there is only one other print of Chez Mondrian that is, like the print offered here, both on carte-postale and mounted to vellum: in the Julien Levy Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Unmounted carte-postale prints of the image are in the following institutional collections: the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (formerly in the collection of Piet Mondrian); and The Museum of Modern Art (formerly in the collection of Thomas Walther).  Additionally, two unmounted carte-postale prints are believed to be in private collections, one of them sold by G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1991.

  • USAUSA
  • 2005-10-10
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‘no. 5 of series of twelve lifesized heads' (kate keown)

Circular albumen print, mounted, signed, titled, annotated ‘From life, not enlarged’ in ink, annotation ‘16/’ in pencil, and with the Colnaghi blindstamp on the mount, 1866 While Julia Margaret Cameron regularly drew upon literature and art for her themes, her own work is purely photographic.  Like the portrait of Julia Prinsep Jackson offered as Lot 31, this image of the young Kate Keown presents a detailed and affectionate account of its subject.  The present print is remarkable for the depth of its tonality and Cameron’s expert handling of light on Keown's face.  It is on a full mount, with Cameron’s notations and title inscribed around the circumference of the print.  Cameron indicates in her title that this is one in a series of twelve ‘lifesized’ portrait studies.  Cameron authority Julian Cox notes that this series was the first work she executed, in the spring and summer of 1866, with a new larger-format camera that produced 15-by-12-inch negatives.  In the days before enlargement was practical and contact printing was the norm, larger negatives allowed for larger prints.  Cameron took to the larger format immediately, as the series of Twelve Lifesized Heads (Cox 874-84) illustrates beautifully.  She was now able to create images of dramatic size as well as impact, while still maintaining the nuance and grace that were already hallmarks of her style.   In this print she has trimmed the image to a tondo, its circular shape referencing both the Renaissance and the work of her contemporaries, the Pre-Raphaelites. In Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs, Cox locates four other large-format prints of this image in the following collections: the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin (circular); in the Norman Album, private collection, United Kingdom (rectangular); the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln, United Kingdom (rectangular); and the Beinecke Library, Yale University (oval).  Additionally, Cox locates two carte-de-visite versions of this portrait.  

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-12-12
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Unmöglich (self portrait)

An early photograph after the original photomontage, signed and dated in the negative, 1932, printed no later than 1936; accompanied by the original frame backing with a 1936 Salzburger Jahresausstellung exhibition label, with photographer’s typed information and Berlin studio address This large-format, early exhibition print of one of Bayer’s most celebrated images was shown in the 1936 Jahresausstellung in Salzburg, Austria.  Unmöglich synthesizes Bayer’s great control over the photographic medium with his puckish sense of humor: the artist himself, striking a classical pose in front of a mirror, removes a section of his arm to reveal not flesh and bone, but an opaque stone-like interior.  Balancing parody with sophisticated photographic technique, Bayer created one of the most memorable photomontages of the 20th century.  Like the best of Bayer’s photomontages—including Lonely Metropolitan and Metamorphosis—Unmöglich crosses the line separating pure Modernism and Surrealism.  By the time the young Austrian-born Bayer attended the Bauhaus in Weimar, he had already worked as a professional commercial artist and graphic designer.  At the Bauhaus, he studied under Wassily Kandinsky and later became an instructor there in typography and advertising design.  In the late 1920s and 1930s, Bayer worked in Berlin, and it is during this period that he created the series of works that he referred to as his fotoplastiken (literally 'photo sculptures'), including Unmöglich. Bayer brought all of his talent as a photographer and graphic artist to bear on the fotoplastiken.  A meticulous craftsman, he combined a number of photographic elements and expertly assembled them into a homogenous and credible composition.  This print of Unmöglich was made directly from Bayer’s original 1932 fotoplastik, and offers a window into the artist's working methods. The edges of the image show Bayer's use of pins to hold the original photomontage in place in order to photograph it. Penciled crop lines at the very edge of the original are rendered here photographically, and this print allows us to see the full dimensions of the original photomontage. The present photograph is a rare example from the first generation of prints Bayer made of his photomontages in the 1930s.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-12-12
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‘out of window—291—n.y.’

Platinum print, signed, titled, and dated in pencil in the margin, 1915 This platinum print has tones that range from a deep lush gray to creamy white.  In terms of its evocation of a winter twilight scene, the print is thoroughly compelling.  As a technical feat, its depiction of a snow-covered tree demonstrates Stieglitz's formidable abilities as a printer.  Snow is a notoriously difficult photographic subject—its stark whiteness tends to throw the rest of the photograph into deep shadow.  Stieglitz has masterfully handled the white values in this print, while also coaxing a great deal of detail out of the darker areas.  In doing so, he has taken a scene that would have been, in a lesser photographer's hands, a technical exercise and rendered it with great sensitivity, capturing the quiet poetry of the moment.  In a letter of 14 December 1917, Stieglitz described to Georgia O’Keeffe a visit he’d had with Charles Sheeler the day before.  ‘He is always fine,’ Stieglitz wrote. ‘Wears splendidly.  I am to have three of his wonderful photographs in exchange . . . ’  As Sarah Greenough recounts, the photographers, in the end, exchanged four photographs each: Sheeler gave Stieglitz four of his Doylestown interiors, and Stieglitz gave Sheeler two prints of the galleries at ‘291,’ a view from the back window there, and a print of the image offered here.  ‘It’s hellish hard work for me to get what I want—& I don’t want to give him a print which isn’t A1 + + — A 1 plus plus —,’ Stieglitz continued in the letter.  Sheeler’s print of the present photograph is now in The Museum of Modern Art, a gift from Sheeler in 1941 (Greenough, Letters, Vol. 1, p. 221 and fn450).   The present photograph was acquired directly from Stieglitz by Charles and Aline Liebman.  Aline Meyer Liebman, a photographer herself and an active patron of the arts, was the sister of wealthy banker Eugene Meyer, Jr., whose wife Agnes helped underwrite Stieglitz’s avant-garde periodical ‘291.’ In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set, Sarah Greenough locates only four prints of this image, aside from that offered here, in the collections of the following institutions: the National Gallery of Art; Sheeler's print at The Museum of Modern Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the J. Paul Getty Museum.  Another print was sold by Leland Little Auction and Estate Sales in 2012.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-12-12
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'Wassertürme (Trichter)', 1972

9 tirages argentiques. Un tirage signé et avec le schéma d'installation au crayon au verso. Tous les tirages titrés et numérotés de 1 à 9 au crayon au verso. Individuellement montés sous passe-partout. Chaque tirage titré et numéroté au verso: 1 - Hagondange F 2 - Maizieres les Metz F 3 - Auchel F 4 - Hesdigneulle Les Bethune F 5 - Bethune F 6 - Metz F 7 - Nähe Paris F 8 - Maisconcesses F 9 - Homécourt F Cet ensemble exceptionnel de neuf photographies de châteaux d’eau a été conçu et acquis en 1972 à la galerie Konrad Fischer, premier soutien de Bernd et Hilla Becher. Il s’agit de l’année de leur première participation à la ‘documenta 5’ de Cassel sous la direction de Harald Szeemann. Vraisemblablement fatidique, 1972 marque non seulement les débuts de leur collaboration avec Illeana Sonnabend mais aussi les prémices de leur reconnaissance internationale. Il faut penser aux retentissements du célèbre article de Carl André sur Artforum paru en décembre de la même année. ‘A note on Bernhard and Hilla Becher’ relie alors pour la première fois le travail des Becher aux questionnements de l’art conceptuel et minimal. Cette typologie de neuf châteaux d’eau présentée ici est remarquable à plusieurs titres. On retrouve manifestement le style caractéristique des Becher avec l’Entfremdungseffekt ou effet de distanciation créé par la présentation systématique inspirée de la taxinomie ainsi qu’une composition standardisée et identique sur chaque « portrait » insistant sur la frontalité et la monumentalité des constructions industrielles classées par fonctionnalité et forme. Cependant, à l’inverse de leur travail postérieur, ce style éminemment caractéristique n’est pas encore épuré au point d’isoler complètement les sujets photographiés de leur environnement. En examinant de plus près certains clichés, on peut alors observer des hommes, des pylônes ou encore des lignes à haute tension. Cette série est ainsi essentielle pour permettre d’apprécier l’évolution du style des Becher vers l'épure des années ultérieures. Par ailleurs, elle s’avère être précieuse car aucune autre série d’époque de ces neuf châteaux d’eau en forme d’entonnoir n’est connue. Seule l’existence de cette typologie reprise dans une œuvre unique et en deux parties est attestée dans les collections de la Deutsche Bank. « Nous ne voulons rien changer aux objets que nous photographions – un principe auquel nous obéissons encore aujourd’hui. La seule chose qui nous était et nous est permise, c’est un artifice permettant de dégager les sujets concernés, de les rapprocher suffisamment pour qu’ils occupent tout le champ de l’image, ce qui ne correspond pas à la réalité, puisque sur place ils se dressent dans un chaos ou une jungle architectonique. Mais cet artifice est nécessaire pour pouvoir les embrasser du regard et en distinguer clairement la forme globale. » (Michael Köhler, ‘Interview mit Bernd und Hilla Becher’ in Künstler: Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst, Munich, WB, 1989, p. 14.)

  • FRAFrance
  • 2015-11-13
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Lee miller

A sequence of 3 nude studies of Lee Miller, pencil notations on the reverse of each, circa 1930; accompanied by the frame backing with National Portrait Gallery exhibition labels The photographs in Lots 126 through 132 are from the collection of Swiss filmmaker Thomas Koerfer.  Koerfer’s oeuvre of nine feature films is a rich and varied one. His first film, The Death of a Flea Circus Director (1972), won critical and public acclaim at its premiere at Critics’ Week at Cannes, and later that year was shown at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  The Assistant (1975), an adaptation of Robert Walser’s proto-Modernist novel, also premiered at Cannes.  Embers (1985) tells the story of a Swiss businessman and art collector who enriches himself—and his collection of Impressionist paintings—by selling arms to the Third Reich.  The film stirred much discussion and controversy within a Switzerland uncomfortable with confronting its past.  Koerfer’s latest film, Green Henry, is based upon the famous bildungsroman by Gottfried Keller. In addition to his film and theatre work, Thomas Koerfer has been continually engaged in the art world of Zürich and is an adventurous and keen-eyed collector of contemporary art and photographs.  He was for many years on the board of the Kunsthalle Zürich and served as president of the foundation committee of the Fotomuseum Winterthur for 12 years.  His collection, the subject of the 2004 book, Stripped Bare: The Body Revealed in Contemporary Art, will be shown at the Kunsthaus Zürich in June of 2015. This suite of sensual images shows Man Ray's lover and muse, Lee Miller.  Man Ray had met the young and beautiful American Lee Miller in Paris in 1929, and she became his studio assistant and then his lover.  A fine photographer in her own right, Miller was linked to Man Ray for three years, a tumultuous period in which she inspired some of Man Ray's most famous photographs and paintings. The photographs offered here are a perfect collaboration between photographer and model.  In these images, Miller shifts her body in relation to the sunlight, manipulating both the window and the curtain, creating a series of sensual tableaux.  Throughout, Man Ray makes inventive use of natural light filtered through curtains to delineate the contours of Miller’s form.  The sunlight passing through the mesh-patterned curtains projects lines of latitude and longitude onto Miller, creating an erotic topographical map of her body.  This effect is most pronounced in the first image of this trio, which Man Ray cropped radically in subsequent prints to focus solely on Miller’s torso.  As in Man Ray’s other great nude studies, these three images show the photographer’s ability to combine a classic depiction of the nude with a distinctly novel photographic approach. This series comes from a session during which at least four exposures were made; the negatives are in the collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris.  As of this writing, other prints of these images, in this full-frame format, have not been located.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-09-30
Hammer price
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* Note that the price doesn’t correlate with today’s value, but only relates to the actual end price at the time of the purchase.

Photography

This category includes all manner of photographs and prints, from early photographs and historical images to iconic shoots, portraits, and contemporary photographic art. The lots here span the development of both photographic technology, and of photography as an art form, from their invention to the present day.

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