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'gargoyle, chrysler building, new york'

Oversized, warm-toned, titled and annotated 'Mid-winter 1929-30' and 'Her Studio on 61st Floor Where Gargoyles Situated' in unidentified hands in pencil on the reverse, matted, framed, 1929-30 Margaret Bourke-White was commissioned by the Chrysler Corporation to photograph their new, 77-story, 1,046-foot skyscraper in 1930, while it was still under construction.  In her autobiography, Portrait of Myself, Bourke-White says of her first glimpse of the Chrysler Building gargoyles, ‘On the sixty-first floor, the workmen started building some curious structures which overhung 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue below.  When I learned these were to be gargoyles à la Notre Dame, but made of stainless steel as more suitable for the twentieth century, I decided that here would be my new studio.  There was no place in the world that I would accept as a substitute.  I was ready to close my studio in Cleveland in order to be nearer Fortune, but it was the gargoyles which gave me the final spurt to New York’ (p. 78). When the building’s landlord expressed doubt about renting such prime real estate to a woman, in what was then, briefly, the tallest building in the world, Fortune magazine intervened on her behalf.  Later that year, Bourke-White opened her studio, and she remained there until early 1933. It was from this space on the southeast side of the Chrysler Building that Bourke-White photographed one of the two imposing gargoyles accessible to her.  Designed by Chesley Bonestell and inspired by the 1929 Chrysler Plymouth hood ornament, they were among the many automotive-themed ornaments, including hubcaps, mudguards, winged radiator caps, and stylized cars, adorning this exuberant, luxurious building.  The Chrysler Building’s flamboyance was not seen again in skyscraper architecture.  The Crash of 1929 and the Depression intervened, and more austere European modernist design became the norm in the following decades. Fearless, Bourke-White often delighted in climbing out onto the gargoyles themselves, 800 feet above the street, to photograph the city. This was not the first skyscraper that the daring Bourke-White had photographed.  Fascinated and exhilarated by tall structures and heights, she had previously made a variety of images of and from Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, and she would go on to document other large structures and to photograph from airplanes and helicopters. At the time of this writing, it is believed that only one other print of this image in this extraordinarily large format has been offered at auction—a print from the collection of Barry Friedman (Christie’s New York, 5 October 1998, Sale 9026, Lot 6).

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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‘from the radio tower, berlin’

Ferrotyped, mounted on Hi-Art illustration board, signed and dated ‘1928’ in pencil and inscribed and dated ‘to Franz 45’ in ink on the mount, title and date in pencil on the reverse, 1928, probably printed circa 1941 The image offered here is the most famous of a series of photographs Moholy-Nagy took from the new Berlin radio tower, the Funkturm, erected in 1926.   Moholy appears to have photographed from the height of the tower for a period of nearly two years, from 1926 to 1928.  The present image is one of a number of pictures made during the winter of 1928, in which snow transforms the landscape and buildings below into an abstraction.   Moholy’s use of the high vantage point was among several strategies he employed to ‘unlock’ a picture space that could seem ordinary when viewed from the perspective of eye level.   From the dizzying top of the radio tower, however, as in the present image, the individual walkways—some cleared of snow, others not—spin off like revolving spokes from a circle in the center; the trees and shrubs become a study in pointillism; and the rooftops and windows of nearby buildings, a series of overlapping, geometric shapes.  Beaumont Newhall, who had purchased Moholy’s entire show at the Delphic Studio Galleries in 1939, chose this image for Sixty Photographs, the inaugural exhibition of the Department of Photographs at The Museum of Modern Art, in 1940-41. In 1941, following the Sixty Photographs exhibition, the Museum sponsored a show to promote the collecting of photographs, entitled American Photographs at $10.  Nine photographers, among them Moholy-Nagy, submitted one image each to the exhibition, and agreed to print the image in an edition of 10, at a price of $10, as the works were sold.  Few, however, were ultimately purchased.  Moholy’s contribution to this show was the ‘From the Radio Tower, Berlin,’ and it is believed that the print offered here is likely from that generation of prints, made around 1941. The present print is inscribed by Moholy on the mount, ‘to Franz,’ his Institute of Design student Franz Altschuler (1923–2009).  Suffering from leukemia in the mid-1940s, Moholy required frequent blood transfusions, and the German-born Altschuler, a blood-type match, generously gave blood for Moholy’s treatment.   In 1945, in gratitude, Moholy presented him with this personally-inscribed print of one of his most important images.  Altschuler later went on to teach at the I.D. himself and became a successful artist and prolific commercial illustrator.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-12-12
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Pepper (no. 30)

Mounted, signed, dated, and editioned '25-50' in pencil on the mount, with partial signature by Weston in pencil and annotation by Tullah Hanley in ink on the reverse, framed, 1930 The photograph offered here, Weston’s iconic Pepper No. 30, is from a series of thirty pepper studies made by the photographer over an intensive four days in the summer of 1930.  Pepper No. 30 was immediately one of Weston’s favorite and most sought-after pepper studies.  For Weston, this photograph represented a definitive step forward in the evolution of his work.  Weston describes this series in the 8 August 1930 entry in his Daybooks: ‘It is a classic, completely satisfying, – a pepper – but more than a pepper: abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter.  It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind. . . . My recent work more than ever indicates my future’ (California, p. 181). Unlike the pepper studies of 1929, Pepper No. 30 and others made during the summer of 1930 fill the 8x10-inch negative nearly to the point of abstraction.  Weston captures the details of the undulating bell pepper, with its curves, smooth skin, and hint of decay, with brilliant clarity.  Whereas previous peppers had been placed on a plinth, against burlap, or in bowls, Weston placed these new peppers in a tin funnel, which provided not only a curving, undefinable background, but also refracted lighting. This photograph comes originally from the collection of art patron, book collector, and energy tycoon Thomas Edward Hanley (1893-1969), who first met Weston in Carmel in 1939.  The pair corresponded over the next 15 years, during which Hanley acquired prints for his collection.  After Hanley’s death, his widow, Tullah, donated this and a selection of other Weston prints in 1974 to Allegheny College, who in turn offered a group of these photographs at auction in 2004.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-03-31
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Negative/positive photogram pair

A unique photogram and a positive print of the photogram, both inscribed 'oben' by the photographer and dated ‘1926’ and annotated ‘L. Moholy-Nagy’ by Sybil Moholy, the photographer’s wife, in pencil, numbered ‘1.’ and ‘2.’ respectively, and with directional and other notations in various hands in pencil and ink on the reverse, 1920s; accompanied by a frame backboard with exhibition labels (2 photographs, one backboard) This large and early pair of images by Moholy-Nagy comprises a unique original photogram and its corresponding positive image.  Individually, each photograph is a model of its type: the original photogram is boldly graphic, with strong white geometric shapes floating against a deep black background; its reinterpretation as a positive image is no less impressive.  Viewed in concert they encapsulate Moholy’s deep understanding of photography’s versatility as an expressive tool, and illustrate the extent to which the photogram process, in Moholy’s hands, could be used to make novel and dynamic images.  Intact negative/positive photogram pairs, such as that offered here, are rare.  Renate Heyne, in Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné, locates eight pairs, all in institutional collections.  It is believed that an intact photogram pair has never before appeared at auction.  Heyne knows of no other print of the positive photogram offered here (fgm 87A). The photogram process, for Moholy, was the essence of photography, as it involved the direct manipulation of light.  If one could master the challenge of controlling the action of light by hand onto photo-sensitive material, he reasoned, making images with a camera would come naturally.  Moholy made photograms throughout his long career, and his work with the process was always executed with characteristic adventurousness and rigor.  His exploration of the photogram extended past the making of unique originals to using them as a point of departure for new works. The second photograph offered here is one of a number of examples of Moholy’s reinterpretation of a photogram as a positive image.  Moholy made this photograph by contact printing the original photogram (fgm 87) onto a sheet of photographic paper, producing an image (fgm 87A) whose tonal values are reversed from the original.  While the resulting print is inextricably related to its source, it presents a new aesthetic experience.  Moholy called this process ‘revaluation’ and began experimenting with it during his years in Weimar, between 1923 and 1925. The notations on the reverse of the photogram and its positive counterpart indicate that Moholy intended both images to be viewed together.  The numbering (‘1.’ on the photogram, ‘2.’ on the positive), the directional ‘oben’, and the notation ‘untereinander’ indicate that these photographs were to be exhibited and/or reproduced one on top of the other.  Several other positive/negative photogram pairs by Moholy from this period are marked with similar instructions, indicating if they are to be shown side by side, or one of top of the other (cf. fgm 84 and 84A, and fgm 86 and 86A).

  • USAUSA
  • 2015-04-01
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Rebecca

Platinum print, signed, annotated 'Platinum print,' and dated 'Neg 1921' by the photographer and titled by Hazel Strand in pencil on the reverse, framed, 1921 Paul Strand began his extended study of Rebecca Salsbury in 1920, the year they met, and continued until 1932, the year before their marriage ended, producing well over 100 negatives.  Strand photographed Rebecca close-up and largely without props, contact-printing his best images in rich platinum and palladium metals.  In the expressive portrait offered here, taken the year before they married, Strand captures Rebecca against a sea of blacks punctuated only by the pearlescent button to her left.  Strand's deft handling of the photograph's light and dark values demonstrates his ability to capture a moment of intimacy on film and render it perfectly in a photographic print. Strand and Salsbury were part of Alfred Stieglitz’s extended family of photographers, painters, and thinkers.   Georgia O’Keeffe encouraged the self-taught Salsbury in her painting, and the two frequently painted together at Stieglitz’s Lake George home.  It was there that Salsbury, taken with the way sunlight illuminated the pigments on her glass palate, was inspired to take up the difficult technique of painting on glass.  With O’Keeffe’s support, Salsbury was granted an exhibition at Opportunity Gallery in New York.  In 1932 she exhibited her work with Strand at Stieglitz’s An American Place gallery.   O’Keeffe and Salsbury made frequent trips together to Taos, New Mexico, where Salsbury ultimately settled in 1933, after she and Strand divorced.   The legendary Taos arts patron Mabel Dodge Luhan lauded Salsbury’s work in her 1947 book, Taos and Its Artists: ‘The paintings on glass by Rebecca James . . . are perhaps the most exquisite productions of any Taos artist.’ Belinda Rathbone points out that Strand's prolonged study of Rebecca stands out in the context of his work, for it is the one area where his usual objectivity gives way to a more personal approach.  'Compared with his earlier subject matter,' she writes, 'these portraits of Rebecca seem effortlessly arranged; most important, they succeed in coalescing completely his art and his intimate life . . . Never again would Strand use his art to explore the facets of an intimate relationship' (Paul Strand: Essays on His Life and Work, pp. 81-86). Strand was a master of the craft of platinum printing, and worked meticulously with all of the variables of the process to produce prints that met his uncompromising standards.  This might involve experimentation with different developers, the addition of bleach, or the use of a number of toning agents to impart a golden or blue/grey cast.  Strand even manipulated the temperatures of his chemistry in order to create certain effects.  Once a print met his high standards, Strand would varnish the surface to give it the subtle sheen that is visible on the print of Rebecca offered here.   It is through his attention to these many details that Strand produced prints such as this, filled with visual detail and emotional content. According to Strand authority Anthony Montoya, the photograph offered here is the only print of the image extant.

  • USAUSA
  • 2015-04-01
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‘the yosemite falls, from glacier point yosemite’

Mammoth-plate albumen print, mounted, the photographer’s letterpress label, with the title, series number ‘861,’ New Series title, and his ‘San Francisco’ studio address, affixed to the mount, Gordon L. Bennett’s collection stamp on the reverse, matted, framed, a Monterey Museum of Art exhibition label on the reverse, framed, 1878-81 This mammoth-plate albumen photograph was acquired at the landmark Gordon Bennett Watkins sale held in these rooms in 2004.  Originally part of an album, likely unique, of forty Watkins ‘New Series’ views of Yosemite, the print offered here is believed to be one of only four prints of the image extant.  Its rich tonality and near-pristine condition make it an exceptional representative of this segment of Watkins’s oeuvre. The promontory known as Glacier Point rises 3,200 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley and provides a stunning view of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, as well as a large expanse of the Valley’s north rim.  Watkins first photographed from this vantage point in the 1860s, and he may well have been responsible for the name Glacier Point at that time.  In ‘Carleton E. Watkins in Yosemite Valley, 1861-66: Geological Theory and Photographic Practice’ (History of Photography, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1996), Paul Hickman points out that Glacier Point appears on the mounts of Watkins photographs as early as 1865, and no prior citations have been found. Keenly interested in the scientific developments of his day, Watkins would have been aware of Clarence King’s theory of the glacial formation of Yosemite, and this may have inspired him to call the promontory Glacier Point—a point from which evidence of an ancient glacier and its movement through the Valley could be seen. In contrast to his views of Yosemite from the 1860s, the photographs made by Watkins when he returned to the Valley in the late 1870s show a photographer who has evolved from skillful documentarian to masterful artist, working with his mammoth-plate camera in a more conceptual way.  Photographs from this ‘New Series’ of Yosemite, exemplified by the photograph offered here, are characterized above all by stylistic deliberation.  Far scarcer than Watkins’s work from the 1860s, the ‘New Series’ expands Watkins’s importance to the photography of the nineteenth century.  As Martha Sandweiss describes the present image, it ‘is less a statement about a distinct place than it is a brilliant study in abstract form . . . The photograph breaks down into three powerful shapes: the sky, the distant mountain walls, and the dark form of the rock formation which, despite its foreground position, seems to recede into distant space.  It is elegant, simple, bold’ (in Palmquist, pp. xv-xvi).

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-12-12
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Withdrawal

Georgia o'keeffe (by car)

Flush-mounted, mounted again to a larger board, inscribed 'OK-6B-' by Doris Bry in pencil on the reverse, framed, a Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, exhibition label on the reverse, 1933 In the summer of 1933, with proceeds from the sale of one of her paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe purchased the new Ford V-8 convertible coupe against which she poses in the photograph offered here.  O’Keeffe was inspired to learn to drive during the summers she spent in the vast landscape of the southwest.  In sparsely populated New Mexico, a driver’s license was not required.  In 1929, she purchased her first automobile—a black Ford sedan—with Rebecca Strand for a few hundred dollars.  Soon she was awkwardly shifting gears on the bumpy roads around Santa Fe and Taos, much to the consternation of her instructors, Strand and Tony Luhan.  O’Keeffe persevered, however, and soon the deserts, pueblos, and natural monuments were all within her reach, from behind the wheel of the Ford.  As Roxana Robinson has observed, in her Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life (New York, 1989), O’Keeffe’s automobile and the act of driving were both signs of her growing independence and freedom in New Mexico, away from Alfred Stieglitz and Lake George.  Indeed, O’Keeffe initially kept her driving and road trips a secret, anxious about what reaction Stieglitz might have.  In the end, as Robinson recounts, Stieglitz supported her, but he may have simply faced the inevitable.  His own attempts to drive were never very successful: as Robinson states, ‘Of the two, it was Georgia who exploited the great possibilities of the automobile’ (p. 343).  O’Keeffe purchased her new V-8 at Lake George in 1933, and soon thereafter got her New York State driver’s license. Whatever his conflicted reactions to O’Keeffe’s new-found mobility may have been, Stieglitz made some of his most powerful portraits of her beside the Ford V-8 coupe, including the photograph offered here, as well as several studies of her hand against the car’s spare tire (Greenough 1515 and 1519). In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates 4 other gelatin silver prints made from this negative (OK 6 B): at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Hallmark Photographic Collection, Kansas City; and in a private collection.  Doris Bry’s census accounts for the above-listed prints, but she points out that the private collection print was acquired by the Museé d’Orsay in 2003.  Additionally, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, owns a print of this image.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-04-02
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Georgia o'keeffe (by car)

Flush-mounted, mounted again to a larger board, inscribed 'OK-6B-' by Doris Bry in pencil on the reverse, matted, in a modern white metal frame, 1933; accompanied by an earlier modern white metal frame, with a Doris Bry label on the reverse In the summer of 1933, with proceeds from the sale of one of her paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe purchased the new Ford V-8 convertible coupe against which she poses in the photograph offered here.  O’Keeffe was inspired to learn to drive during the summers she spent in the vast landscape of the southwest.  In sparsely populated New Mexico, a driver’s license was not required.  In 1929, she purchased her first automobile--a black Ford sedan--with Rebecca Strand for a few hundred dollars.  Soon she was awkwardly shifting gears on the bumpy roads around Santa Fe and Taos, much to the consternation of her instructors, Strand and Tony Luhan.  O’Keeffe persevered, however, and soon the deserts, pueblos, and natural monuments were all within her reach, from behind the wheel of the Ford. As Roxana Robinson has observed, in her Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life (New York, 1989), O’Keeffe’s automobile and the act of driving were both signs of her growing independence and freedom in New Mexico, away from Alfred Stieglitz and Lake George.  Indeed, O’Keeffe initially kept her driving and road trips a secret, anxious about what reaction Stieglitz might have.  In the end, as Robinson recounts, Stieglitz supported her, but he may have simply faced the inevitable.  His own attempts to drive were never very successful: as Robinson states, ‘Of the two, it was Georgia who exploited the great possibilities of the automobile’ (p. 343).  O’Keeffe purchased her new V-8 at Lake George in 1933, and soon thereafter got her New York State driver’s license. Whatever his conflicted reactions to O’Keeffe’s new-found mobility may have been, Stieglitz made some of his most powerful portraits of her beside the Ford V-8 coupe, including the photograph offered here, as well as several beautiful studies of her hand against the car’s spare tire (Greenough 1515 and 1519). In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates 4 other gelatin silver prints made from this negative (OK 6 B): at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Hallmark Photographic Collection, Kansas City; and in a private collection.  Doris Bry’s census accounts for the above-listed prints, but she points out that the private collection print was acquired by the Museé d’Orsay in 2003.  Additionally, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, owns a print of this image.

  • USAUSA
  • 2006-02-15
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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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