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Georgia o'keeffe (nude study)

Palladium print, mounted to board, 1918-19 The series of nude studies that Alfred Stieglitz began of Georgia O’Keeffe in 1918 represents his only prolonged, and ultimately most significant, work with the female form.  The image offered here, with its bold composition and clean lines, is pure Modernism.  Its austere aesthetic does not negate its erotic charge.  O’Keeffe’s and Stieglitz’s romantic relationship was in first flower when this picture was made.  The two had met in 1915, and then began a gradually intensifying correspondence that culminated in O’Keeffe’s move to New York City in June of 1918.  Stieglitz’s consuming desire for O’Keeffe did not blind him to her talent as an artist or to the importance of her work.  With the help of his brother Lee, Stieglitz set O’Keeffe up in her own sky-lit apartment/studio on East 59th Street, where she could pursue her painting without distraction, and without the burden of paying rent.  It was there that he began to photograph her, as O’Keeffe later recounted, ‘with a kind of heat and excitement’ (O’Keeffe: A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz, unpaginated).  As O’Keeffe’s and Stieglitz’s relationship became more physical, the photographs became more intimate. While eroticism and desire are present in these pictures, Stieglitz never failed to execute them with his characteristic technical and aesthetic skill.  This dedication extended to the prints he produced, usually on palladium or platinum paper with a smooth matte surface and a long tonal range capable of rendering the subtlest shifts in texture and shade.  The palladium print offered here is a prime example.  A slight reversal of tones in the dark areas suggests that Stieglitz may have solarized the print very slightly during processing to enhance its dramatic affect. In Alfred Stieglitz: The Key Set: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Photographs, Sarah Greenough locates only three examples of this image aside from the print offered here: at the National Gallery of Art, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and in a private collection—all platinum prints.

  • USAUSA
  • 2014-04-02
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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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'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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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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* 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.