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  • 0—12 700 000 HKD
  • 30 10月 1989— 4 6月 2017

‘shadows and reflections, venice’

Gum-platinum print, on a triple mount, signed in pencil on the secondary mount, titled and annotated '34' (circled) and with other numerical notations on the reverse, 1905 In its atmospheric evocativeness and bravura handling of technique, this large-format multiple-process print is the apotheosis of Pictorial photography.  Coburn has combined in this print two processes in separate exposures—one in platinum, the other in gum—yielding a print of complex tonality and depth.  Additionally, Coburn has emphasized elements of the image within the negative and enhanced volume, shape, and line with pigment on the surface of the print itself.   Shadows and Reflections is, like Edward Steichen's great The Pond—Moonlight, a daringly abstract image for its time.  The reflections in the canal abstract—rather than mirror—the figurative elements of the composition.  The principle subject—the shadowed figure ascending a Venetian bridge—plays a secondary role to the fascinating reinterpretation of the scene on the water’s rippled surface.  Although Coburn is justly classified as a Pictorialist during this phase of his career, he never relied upon the formulae or sentiment that ultimately limited the creative lifespan of this style.  From his earliest work with the camera, Coburn was adept at creating complex, evocative, and visually engaging images from the world around him. A print of Shadows and Reflections was shown in the seminal 1910 International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo.  In Alfred Stieglitz’s brief introductory text in the exhibition’s catalogue he praises Coburn’s abilities with the platinum-gum process.  Stieglitz had debuted the 22-year-old Coburn’s images in Camera Work in 1904, reproducing six of his photographs and hailing him as ‘Possibly the youngest star in our firmament.’ Gifted with both an artist's eye and a deep understanding of photographic technique, Coburn always represented a wholly independent vantage point in the world of early 20th-century photography.   His capacity for incorporating abstraction into representational imagery was distinctive and new and is beautifully illustrated in Shadows and Reflections—Venice.  Coburn’s penchant for abstraction continued throughout his career, finding its fullest expression in the Vortographs he created the following decade—images which take shadows and reflections as their principle subject matter. As of this writing, only three other prints of this image are extant: in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the George Eastman House; and in a private American collection. Like the Vortograph offered in this catalogue as Lot 12, Shadows and Reflections—Venice was originally given by Coburn to his close friend Leonard Arundale, with whom he shared an abiding interest in Freemasonry.

  • USA
  • 2014-12-12

'shells'

Mounted to buff-colored card, signed, dated, initialed, and editioned '18/50' in pencil on the mount, titled and dated in pencil on the reverse, framed, 1927 This bravura print from Edward Weston’s series of photographs of shells is rendered with clarity and nuance.  The varied textures of three different shells—from the iridescence of the nautilus shell at the top, to the rough exterior of the abalone shell at the bottom—gleam with three-dimensionality on the semi-glossy paper.  On a large, buff-colored mount, with Weston’s signature in the lower right corner, the Shells print offered here is the ideal presentation of the image.   The significance of Weston’s shell photographs to his oeuvre and to the history of twentieth-century art cannot be overstated.   His photographs of shells arranged before plain, dark backgrounds exemplify his achievement as an artist.  These deceptively simple compositions belie the complexity of their conception, the years of evolution in Weston’s vision, and countless trials with objects before his camera.  The shell photographs resonate as strongly today as when they were made, almost a century ago.  Weston was keenly attuned to the very special nature of the shell.  ‘I am not blind to the sensuous quality in shells,’ he wrote in his daybook in July of 1927, ‘with which they combine the deepest spiritual significance. ‘ The print offered here comes originally from the collection of Weston’s friends Zelda and William Holgers of California.  William Holgers, an amateur photographer, was part of the Bay Area’s thriving Camera Club scene before the Second World War and enrolled in the Yosemite photography workshop conducted by Ansel Adams and Weston in 1940.  A building contractor by trade, Holgers made improvements to Weston’s house and garage at Wildcat Hill, sometimes in exchange for photographs.  Over the years he acquired a small collection of prints by Weston and his circle, one a gift from Weston to celebrate Bill and Zelda’s marriage in 1942.  Holgers is perhaps best known in the Weston literature as the photographer of the fine dual portrait of Weston and Charis Wilson that appears on the dust jacket of Wilson’s 1998 memoir, Through Another Lens: My Years with Edward Weston. Early prints of Shells (7S) are surprisingly scarce.  Weston’s negative log in the Center for Creative Photography, Tuscon, records prints numbered 12 through 18, with print 14 and print 15 described later in the log as ‘destroyed.’  Conger locates six prints in institutions, at least three of which are Project Prints.   A print of the image was exhibited in Weston’s 1928 show at the East/West Gallery in San Francisco and may have been in the Film und Foto show in Stuttgart in 1929.  It was included in his retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 1946.   But few early prints have appeared at auction.   The beautiful state of this particular print, combined with the Holgers provenance, make this an exceptional example of the series.

  • USA
  • 2014-03-31

The little screens

A suite of 38 photographs, each signed, titled, dated, and numbered in pencil and with the photographer's '52 South Mountain Rd., New City, New York 10956' studio, copyright, and reproduction rights stamp on the reverse, 1961-70, printed later (38) Witty, ironic, and perceptive, Lee Friedlander’s Little Screens photographs capture the growing ubiquity of television in post-war America and offer deadpan comic commentary on the vacuity of popular culture.  Taken between 1961 and 1970, in locales ranging from Galax, Virginia, to Washington State, each photograph includes within its frame a television set illuminated with flickering moments of entertainment, advertising, or politics.  Like the best of Friedlander’s photographs, the Little Screens images initially appear off-hand and casual.  Examined more closely—and seen together as a series—they reveal a depth of sophistication. As Hilton Kramer wrote in 1972, Friedlander ‘has wrested from the accidents of experience some remarkable images—a kind of workaday surrealism that is ingenious in the incongruous forms it brings together, yet always faithful to a straight documentary surface.  The little group of pictures showing television screens functioning in bleak, uninhabited rooms is unforgettable’ (New York Times, 25 November, 1972, p. 23). Images from Friedlander’s series were first published, along with text by his friend and mentor Walker Evans, in the February 1963 issue of Harper’s Bazaar in a feature entitled ‘The Little Screens: A Photographic Essay by Lee Friedlander with a Comment by Walker Evans.’  The images’ unlikely debut in Harper’s Bazaar was the direct result of art director Marvin Israel’s effort in the early 1960s to replace traditional magazine imagery with edgier work by Friedlander, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Andy Warhol, among others.  Friedlander and Israel also worked together at Atlantic Records, where Israel was an art director and Friedlander provided photographs of musicians for albums and liner notes. The importance of The Little Screens was acknowledged early on.  John Szarkowski included one in his encyclopedic 1964 exhibition The Photographer’s Eye at the Museum of Modern Art.  Szarkowski also included the work in the seminal 1967 New Documents exhibition.  After Bazaar’s publication of Little Screens, Friedlander received a letter requesting to purchase Philadelphia (1961) from the series.  Surprised that anyone would want to pay him $25 for a photograph, Friedlander met with the buyer: the artist Jim Dine.  The two became friends and would later collaborate on the 1969 Photographs & Etchings portfolio. The group of Little Screens images offered here is the largest and most complete to appear at auction.  These are the very prints Friedlander used in the creation of the 2001 book, Lee Friedlander: The Little Screens, published by Fraenkel Gallery.  All of the 34 images illustrated in the book are present here, as well as 4 additional images that do not appear in the book.  Like the complete set of Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters offered here as Lot 113, these photographs come from the pioneering photography collectors Mary Robinson and her late husband C. David Robinson.

  • USA
  • 2015-04-01

'white angel bread line'

Flush-mounted, signed and dated ‘1933’ by the photographer in ink on the image, signed, titled, and annotated ‘2706 Virginia St, Berkeley, California’ by the photographer in ink and titled in an unidentified hand in pencil and with the Museum’s label and accession number in an unidentified hand in blue pencil on the reverse, 1933, printed no later than May 1936 This demonstrably vintage print of Dorothea Lange’s ‘White Angel Breadline’ was given to the Museum of Science and Industry by Lange herself in 1936.   In addition to soliciting photographs from the 1933 Century of Progress exhibition, the Museum also expanded its collection by surveying photographic annuals, choosing a range of pictures, and then contacting the photographers of those images for possible donation.  Among the annuals surveyed was Tom Maloney’s widely popular U. S. Camera. Museum records indicate that a number of photographs reproduced in the 1935 U. S. Camera held particular interest for the Museum, including Lange’s ‘White Angel Breadline.’  Lange was contacted, and although we do not have the specifics of her visit, we know that she personally brought a print of ‘White Angel Breadline’ to the Museum.  Museum files contain a copy of a letter to Lange from Museum director, O. T. Kreusser, dated 18 May 1936, which reads in part: ‘Dear Miss Lange: ‘On my return to Chicago, I learned with regret that I had missed your visit to the Museum.  It would have been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to show you, in more detail, how this new project in public education is being carried on.  However, Mr. Mayford tells me that he did what he could to make your visit interesting in the short time at your disposal. . . . ‘Your print, “White Angel Breadline,” has now been duly registered in the Museum’s rapidly growing collection of fine photographs.  Your generous cooperation is cordially appreciated.' In choosing Lange’s ‘White Angel Breadline’ for its collection, the Museum demonstrated remarkable foresight. Taken in 1933, during San Francisco’s depression years, the photograph depicts the dignity and isolation of poverty, as one man turns away from a breadline sponsored by a widow known in the community as ‘the White Angel.’  In 1935, when it was reproduced in U. S. Camera, the photograph, as well as the photographer, had not taken on the significant status they now both enjoy.  Indeed, Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ had been made only a few months before she visited the Museum in 1936, and was far from the world-famous icon it would later become. In 1934 and 1935, Lange was relatively little-known, working with Paul Schuster Taylor at the California Rural Rehabilitation Administration, and later with Roy Stryker at the F. S. A.   It was not the photographer’s reputation, but the undeniable impact of ‘White Angel Breadline’ that spoke to the readers of the 1935 U. S. Camera annual, including Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.  By contacting Lange soon after the photograph appeared in U. S. Camera, the Museum was able to acquire at a very early date a superb print of one of Lange’s best and most important images.

  • USA
  • 2005-10-11

'the breast'

Warm-toned platinum print, tipped to a large buff-colored mount, signed, titled, and dated by the photographer in pencil on the mount, signed, inscribed ‘For Jack – remembering a gay party at Ito’s’ and dated ‘1923’ by the photographer in pencil on the reverse, matted framed, 1921   The subject of this rare, early nude study is the young Italian actress and photographer, Tina Modotti, who would later become Weston’s lover and partner during the photographer’s sojourn in Mexico in the 1920s. At the time of this writing, there are believed to be only three other prints of this image extant: in a private collection in California; one sold in these rooms on 16 October 1990 (Sale 6073, Lot 427); and one in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., donated by Weston himself in 1923.  Two of these prints, in the private California collection, and in the Smithsonian, are alternatively titled ‘The Source.’  A print of this image, bearing the title ‘The Breast’ was exhibited in the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles salon in 1921-22.  A print was also exhibited in 1923 at the Art Center in New York. When Weston visited Alfred Stieglitz in New York City in 1922, he showed the elder photographer a number of his prints, The Breast included.  According to a letter Weston sent to his friend, the photographer Johan Hagemeyer, Stieglitz was impressed by the image and said, ‘If I was still publishing Camera Work I would ask for The Source (Tina’s Breast)’ (Edward Weston on Photography, p. 37). This print offered here was originally given by Edward Weston to the painter John Taylor (1897 – 1983).  Taylor sold advertising for the Los Angeles Times, and studied under Stanton MacDonald Wright.  He moved to New York City around 1922 and married the painter Andrée Ruellan.  Taylor’s sister, Maude Emily Taylor, was a friend of Margrethe Mather and appears as the subject of a number of her photographs (cf. Beth Gates Warren, Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration, pp. 45, 46, 51, and 52). Weston personalized the print offered here with a warm inscription on the reverse of the mount. While it is unknown who ‘Ito’ is, it is possible that the inscription refers to Michio Ito, a Japanese-born dancer who toured with Adolf Bohm’s dance company in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  Ito worked both in New York and Hollywood and was friends with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, and other members of the bohemian Los Angeles circle in which Weston, Mather, and Taylor were included. Sotheby’s wishes to thank Beth Gates Warren for sharing her information on John Taylor and this photograph.

  • USA
  • 2005-10-10

Photogram with pinwheel and other shapes

Photogram, a unique object, signed and dated in ink on the reverse, 1929 This unique photogram comes from an especially animated trio of images Moholy-Nagy created in 1929 (fgm 279-81) that utilize the pinwheel shape.  Moholy had moved to Berlin in 1928 and began to create photograms with a new group of objects there, on a larger-format paper.  In the present image, Moholy’s deft handling of the pinwheel, a paperclip, and what appears to be a wire basket have resulted in a nuanced and lively abstract composition.  Rendered on matte-surface photographic paper with deep blacks and cream-white highlights, this photogram possesses the ideal object quality for Moholy’s work of this period.    There are endless variations of the photogram process, and Moholy continually experimented with ways to expand its capabilities.  In the present image, the three-dimensional shape of the pinwheel creates a modulation of tonality where light has crept under its lifted edges.  The basket-like wire shape is rendered here in intense gray tones, indicating that it was suspended over the paper, and not resting directly upon it.  The doubled impression of the paperclip suggests that Moholy moved it during the exposure. This pinwheel photogram was one of a number of superb Moholy photograms offered in these rooms in 1988 and 1989.  The cover image for the Sotheby’s April 1989 catalogue, it set a record at that time for a Moholy photographic work at auction, far in excess of what any Moholy photogram or photograph had sold for in earlier years. For Moholy-Nagy, the photogram was the essence of photographic image-making.  He wrote: ‘The photogram, or cameraless record of forms produced by light, which embodies the unique nature of the process, is the real key to photography’ (A New Instrument of Vision, 1933).

  • USA
  • 2014-12-12
廣告

'handlanger'

The photographer’s ‘Köln-Lindenthal’ blindstamp on the image, mounted to paper, in the original vellum overmat, signed, dated, and annotated ‘Coln 1927’ in pencil and the number ‘23’ in ink on the overmat, the photographer’s oval ‘Aug. Sander, Köln-Lindenthal, Dürenstr. 201’ studio label and title in pencil on the reverse, 1927 August Sander’s Handlanger is one of the photographer’s definitive images from his epic series, Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (Men of the Twentieth Century).  Sander also selected this image for publication in Antlitz der Zeit, his seminal 1929 book of portraits of the German people.  Although very much of-a-piece with the portraits in this book, Handlanger stands out for the intensity of its subject’s gaze and for Sander’s strongly symmetrical composition.  The photograph is an archetypal portrait of the working man, emanating capability and strength.    Titled simply Handlanger (hod-carrier, or handyman), this image took its place in Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time) alongside portraits of farmers, bureaucrats, students, political radicals, artists, and others, most identified only by their occupation or type.   Sander’s purpose was to create a collective portrait of the German populace that was thoroughly objective, unsentimental, and unprejudiced.  His stated goal was nothing less than ‘. . . to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people.’   Sander’s project and its inclusive scope, however, brought him to the attention of the German authorities. In 1934, the Reich Chamber of Arts ordered the destruction of the printing plates for Antlitz der Zeit and the seizure of all copies, effectively halting Sander’s picture-making. This photograph has the classic presentation for an early print by Sander: its paper mount, vellum overmat, penciled signature, and printed studio label are all signs of its early date.  The print, too, with its profusion of rich gray tones and minute detail, is wholly characteristic of Sander's prints from the 1920s.  Sander’s  home studio in Cologne was destroyed in a 1944 air raid, and surviving prints from the 1920s or 1930s are scarce.

  • USA
  • 2014-12-12

'balzac--the open sky'

Direct carbon photograph, signed and dated by the photographer in crayon on the image, mounted to thick board, signed and dated by the photographer in crayon, and with a printed numerical label on the reverse, matted, 1908 This powerful and imposing photograph of Rodin’s famous statue of Balzac was taken in the moonlight near the sculptor’s home at Meudon in October 1908.  Like ‘The Pond—Moonlight’ of Lot 6, the photograph offered here is believed to be one of only three prints of the photograph extant in this extraordinarily large size.  The photograph is a seminal image from an extensive series of studies the photographer made of the sculptor and his work, a series that includes not only other Balzac photographs, but also the famous double-negative study of Rodin posed in front of ‘The Thinker’ and other portraits of Rodin in a variety of processes, including gum prints, platinum prints, and autochromes.  Meeting Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) and seeing his work were the inspiration for the young Steichen’s first trip to Paris in 1900.  Passionate, deeply committed to his artistic ideals, and above all controversial, the sculptor represented for Steichen all that was potent and revolutionary in modern aesthetics.  Rodin became one of Steichen’s closest friends, a friendship that ended only with Captain Edward Steichen’s presence, as representative of the United States Army, at Rodin’s funeral in 1917.  Soon after meeting Rodin for the first time in 1901, Steichen became the sculptor’s anointed photographer and was paid prices for his photographs that were far in excess of any at that time. Steichen not only photographed Rodin, he also worked to promote the sculptor’s work in the United States, arranging for shows of Rodin’s drawings at the galleries of the Photo-Secession in 1908 and 1910, for instance, and collaborating with Stieglitz to create a special issue of Camera Work devoted to Rodin, his sculpture, and his drawings.  For his part, Rodin referred to Steichen as ‘mon fils.’ In his Life in Photography, Steichen remembered the first picture he saw of Rodin’s Balzac: a reproduction in a Milwaukee newspaper in 1898.  Even in a newspaper reproduction, Steichen recounted, the Balzac ‘seemed the most wonderful thing I had ever seen.  It was not just a statue of a man; it was the very embodiment of a tribute to genius.  It looked like a mountain come to life.  It stirred up my interest in going to Paris, where artists of Rodin’s stature lived and worked’ (Chapter 2, unpaginated).  That a statue of Balzac could make the news in Milwaukee was testament to the controversy created by Rodin’s sculpture at that time. Commissioned by the Société Gens de Lettres some years before, the Balzac was first introduced to the public as a plaster cast at the Salon Nationale des Beaux-Arts of 1898, where it generated an outcry.  As Steichen remembered, the statue ‘was called a monstrosity by some and by others a sack of flour with a head stuck on top’ (ibid., Chapter 2, unpaginated).  The statue was ultimately refused by the Société that had commissioned it, but Rodin, in a characteristically dramatic gesture, built his own pavilion outside the gates of the 1900 Exposition Universelle, and there displayed selected examples of his own work, including Balzac. It was to this pavilion that Steichen and his traveling companion Carl Bjorncrantz rushed on the very day they arrived in Paris in 1900.   At the pavilion, they saw not only the infamous Balzac, but also caught a glimpse of Rodin, ‘a stocky man with massive head, almost like a bull’s,’ as Steichen remembered in A Life in Photography.   Determined to meet Rodin and to photograph him, Steichen wrangled an invitation to the master’s studio in 1901, through a painter who knew Rodin, the Norwegian Fritz Thaulow, whose children Steichen had been asked to photograph.  Steichen and the Thaulows bicycled to Meudon one afternoon, where an initial meeting turned into an invitation to dinner, and then an evening that concluded with a review by Rodin of Steichen’s portfolio of photographs.  Impressed, and perhaps recognizing in the young Steichen the spirit of a fellow revolutionary, Rodin assented to Steichen’s request for a portrait sitting.  Thus began a long and fruitful relationship between the two artists: it is said that Steichen photographed Rodin more than any other sitter, and that Rodin and his work were photographed by Steichen more than by any other photographer.  In the double issue of Camera Work devoted to his art, Rodin wrote, ‘I consider Steichen a very great artist and the leading, the greatest photographer of all time’ (Number 34/35, 1911). In the fall of 1908, during Steichen’s third sojourn in France, Rodin invited him to photograph the controversial Balzac.  Dissatisfied with other pictures of the statue, Rodin worked with Steichen to create an image that he hoped would show the Balzac at its most powerful, more than merely a prosaic document of the statue’s mass and lines.  Rodin had some months before moved the sculpture from his studio to a specially-built revolving platform in his garden, and Steichen was able to observe the statue from all angles, at different times of day and night, in many permutations of light and weather.  According to the photographer’s autobiography, it was Rodin who suggested photographing the statue in moonlight.   Having spent years developing his talents for photographing in just such light, Steichen rose to the challenge.  ‘I immediately went out to Meudon to see it, and found that by daylight, it had a harsh, chalky effect,’ Steichen wrote in A Life in Photography. ‘I agreed with Rodin that under the moonlight was the proper way to photograph it, I had no guide to refer to, and I had to guess at the exposure. ‘I spent the whole night photographing the Balzac.  I gave varying exposures from fifteen minutes to an hour, and secured a number of interesting negatives. . . . ‘In the morning, at breakfast, when I lifted the napkin from my plate, I found two one-thousand franc notes.  This was four hundred dollars, a fabulous present for a night’s work!   . . . Instead of showing Rodin proofs, I immediately made enlarged negatives and commenced printing. ‘It wasn’t until a week or so later, when I had fine pigment prints, that I turned up to show them to Rodin.  The prints seemed to give him more pleasure than anything I had ever done.  He said, “You will make the world understand my Balzac through these pictures.  They are like Christ walking on the desert.” ‘When Stieglitz saw a set of the Balzac prints later, he seemed more impressed than with any other prints I had ever shown him.  He purchased them at once and later presented them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. . . ‘During World War I, we had to leave my negatives behind, uncared for in our home in Voulangis when we left.  During the four years of the war, humidity and bacterial action destroyed the emulsions.  The plates were ruined’ (ibid., Chapter 4, unpaginated).   Weston Naef has pointed out that, as original prints of Steichen’s pre-1917 photographs exist in such few numbers, there were probably photographs at Voulangis that were destroyed as well (Naef, p. 458). In the spring of 1909, from April 21st to May 7th, the galleries of the Photo-Secession held a special exhibition of Steichen’s photographs of Balzac.  The centerpiece of the exhibition was the image offered here, flanked by two horizontal images.  In 1911, three photographs from the Balzac series, including the present image, were reproduced in Camera Work Number 34/35, the special issue devoted to Rodin and his art. The print offered here is believed to be one of only three extant prints, in this large size, of what is perhaps the most striking and dramatic image from the series.  It was recently analyzed by the conservation department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and found to be a direct carbon print.  The print of the image which Stieglitz purchased directly from Steichen, referred to above and donated to the Metropolitan in 1933, has also been recently analyzed by the Museum’s conservation department, and it, too, is a direct carbon print.  In 1986, a third print in this size, catalogued, but not scientifically analyzed, as an olive-green pigment print, was sold in these rooms and is now in a private collection (Sale 5453, Lot 372, 12 May 1986).  For more information on this third print and its origins, see Beth Gates-Warren, Twenty Years of Photographs at Sotheby’s, a supplement to Sotheby’s New York catalogue for Sale 6684, April 1995.  A smaller print of this image, measuring roughly 6 by 8 inches, is in the collection of the Musée Rodin (reproduced in the Musée Rodin’s 1898: Le Balzac de Rodin, Paris, 1998, pl. 164, p. 409). The present print comes originally from the collection of Paul Burty Haviland (1880 - 1950), heir to the Haviland china dynasty and an amateur photographer (cf. Lot 12).  Appropriately, it was Haviland’s purchase of a Rodin drawing from the Photo-Secession galleries’ Rodin exhibition of 1908 that was his introduction to Alfred Stieglitz.   Haviland later became an important source of support for Stieglitz and personally underwrote the rent for the space at 291 Fifth Avenue when money was short.  Along with Marius de Zayas and Agnes Ernst Meyer, Haviland also funded the important arts publication edited by Stieglitz, ‘291’ (see Lot 1).

  • USA
  • 2006-02-15

Gloria swanson

The photographer’s ‘Photograph by Edward Steichen, 80 West 40th Street, New York’ studio stamp, and ‘page 101, Steichen, New York, Gloria Swanson, courtesy Vanity Fair’ and other notations in pencil and china marker on the reverse, framed, 1924 The photograph offered here is a rare, early print of one of the outstanding celebrity portraits of the 20th century.  A Steichen icon, it embodies the creative collaboration between photographer and sitter that characterized the very best of Steichen’s portraits.     In his autobiography, A Life in Photography, Steichen gave a vivid description of the sitting: 'The day I made . . . [these pictures] . . . Gloria Swanson and I had had a long session, with many changes of costume and different lighting effects.  At the end of the session, I took a piece of black lace veil and hung it in front of her face.  She recognized the idea at once.  Her eyes dilated, and her look was that of a leopardess lurking behind leafy shrubbery, watching her prey.  You don't have to explain things to a dynamic and intelligent personality like Miss Swanson.  Her mind works swiftly and intuitively' (A Life in Photography, Chapter 8, unpaginated). The photograph offered here is the definitive image from this session and was first published in the February 1928 issue of Vanity Fair.  The Vanity Fair caption read, ‘A Much Screened Lady—Gloria Swanson: The star has made a film version of Miss Thompson, the [Somerset] Maugham story which is better known as ‘Rain.’’ Rain, concerning a prostitute and a reformer, was one of Maugham’s most famous stories, and Swanson was nominated for an Academy Award for her starring role.  As Diana Edkins points out in her notes for this photograph, Swanson was, by the end of the 1920s, the highest-paid woman in the world.  In addition to her persona as a femme fatale, she was also a businesswoman who produced her own films for more than a decade. Edward Steichen was one of the few photographers to have made a seamless transition from the artistic realm of the Photo-Secession to the lucrative world of commercial photography.  Like Swanson, he was at the top of his game when this photograph was taken.  As chief photographer for Condé Nast, he continued the incisive, dramatic portraiture he had begun years earlier with such sitters as Eleanora Duse and J. Pierpont Morgan.  Even those critical of his move to the world of commerce conceded that his celebrity portrait photography was superb.  Of Steichen’s portraits for Vogue and Vanity Fair, Beaumont Newhall wrote, ‘These photographs are brilliant and forceful; they form a pictorial biography of the men of letters, actors, artists, statesmen of the 1920s and 1930s, doing for that generation what Nadar did for the mid-nineteenth century intellectual world of Paris' (The History of Photography, 1964 edition, p. 190). The print offered here was the actual print reproduced in the 1930 volume of Photographie, an annual published by the influential Arts et Metiers Graphiques in Paris.  Committed to the cutting-edge photography of the day, the Photographie annuals sourced a variety of imagery from America and Europe and presented it in rich photogravure.  In the 1930 volume, Steichen’s dramatic portrait of Swanson was reproduced alongside the avant-garde work of such artists as Man Ray, Brassaï, Maurice Tabard, André Kertész, Roger Parry, and Herbert Bayer.

  • USA
  • 2014-03-31

Album of Egypt and Algeria, 1852 - 1856

Album, contemporary green cloth with monogram gilt 'A.L.' on the cover, spine modern cloth, with 44 photographic prints individually pasted to blue albumen card. 43 prints by John Beasley Greene after paper negatives, 39 salt prints and 5 albumenised salt prints. 15 prints with the signature and reference number in the negative. Also included are drawings, watercolours and further handwritten documents in Arabic.   John Beasley Greene’s photographs captivate us by their sheer modernity in the form of audacious framings reinforced by a very ambitious treatment of light. His work has been called ‘proto-modernist’ and looking back it is evident today that his views of Egypt and Algeria are some of the most radical in early photography. In some cases his images are densely filled with architecture but often without any reference of scale, similarly the sense of scale is lost in this fabulously dense view of a waterfall in Algeria. Quite contrary to these, Greene constructs other photographs around the single line of the horizon with only the quintessence of an image at centre in an otherwise void image space, such as the often reproduced, spectacularly minimalist view of the Nile with an island at centre. The young Beasley Greene thus creates an incredibly vast photographic oeuvre in the span of just four years. A student of the great Gustave Le Gray, the son of a Boston banker is one of the rare American artists to have adopted the paper negative process with great mastery; his work includes views of Paris and the Fontainebleau forest – two forest scenes are included in this album – but the majority of his output depicts the land and documents the monuments and their inscriptions in Egypt, Algeria and Nubia realised during his expeditions as an archaeologist in 1853, 1854-1855 and 1855-1856. Acquired in Paris as indicated by the bookseller Alexandre Reichmann’s label on the inside front cover, the album was assembled by its first owner who participated in Auguste Mariette’s excavations around the Sphinx and then further up the Nile to the Second Cataract in 1853 during which he may have become acquainted with John Beasley Greene. Important holdings of John Beasley Greene’s photographs are today kept in the Institut de France, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Musée d’Orsay as well as in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Getty Museum and other American institutions. List of titles: 1 - ‘El Kantara Bridge, Constantine, Algeria’, 1855 – 1856 2 - ‘Forest of Fontainebleau, France’, 1852 3 - Mousky district, Cairo, Egypt, 1854 – 1855 4 - Constantine, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 5 - ‘Temple of Edfu, Egypt’, 1854 6 - ‘Second cataract, above Ghebel Abousir’, 1854 7 - ‘View of Karnak, from the west, Egypt’, 1854 8 - ‘Gezireh village, Thebes, Egypte’, 1854 9 - Egypt 10 - ‘Viaduct above the aqueduct of Cherchell, Algeria’, 1855 – 1856 11 - ‘Waterfall, Constantine, Algeria’, 1855 – 1856 12 - Egypt 13 - Constantine, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 14 - Constantine environs, Algeria, 1855 - 1856 15 - Constantine environs, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 16 - Constantine environs, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 17 - Constantine, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 18 - Egypt 19 - Constantine, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 20 - ‘El Kantara Bridge, Constantine, Algeria’, 1855 – 1856 21 - ‘Island of Philae, Egypt’, 1853 – 1854 22 - ‘Date palms, Nubia’, 1853 – 1854 23 - Constantine, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 24 - ‘Waterfall, Constantine, Algeria’, 1855 – 1856 25 - ‘El Kantara Bridge, Constantine, Algeria’, 1855 – 1856 26 - Algeria, 1855 – 1856 27 - Algeria, 1855 – 1856 28 - Algeria, 1855 – 1856 29 - El Kantara Bridge, Constantine, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 30 - Landscape, Constantine, Algeria, 1855 – 1856 31 - ‘Palace of Rameses III at Medinet Habu, second pylon’, 1854 – 1855 32 - ‘Photographer's camp on the banks of the Nile, Egypt’, 1854 33 - ‘Ghebel Abousir environs, Egypt’, 1854 34 - ‘Boat in Harbor, Cherchell, Algeria’, 1856 35 - Constantine, Algeria, 1855 - 1856 36 - ‘Ramesseum, Thebes, Egypt’, 1854 37 - ‘Relief of Ramses II, Egypt’, 1854 38 - ‘Date palms, Nubia’, 1854 39 - Palace of Rameses III at Medinet Habu, entrance to the first court, 1854 40 - ‘Gournah, Thebes’, 1854 41 - ‘First pylon of the Great Temple, Philae’, 1853-1854 42 - ‘Trees near Chailly, France’, 1852 43 - ‘The Propylon of the Temple of Khons, Karnak, Egypt, 1855

  • GBR
  • 2014-05-07

'moonrise, hernandez, new mexico'

Mounted to Strathmore board, signed by the photographer in pencil on the mount, matted, 1941, printed in 1948 The print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico offered here is one of the very few prints Adams made of his most famous image in the 1940s.  Made in 1948, the year that Pirkle Jones acquired it from the photographer, this print exhibits the subtlety of tone and high level of detail in the sky that characterizes the handful of prints Adams made of the image before the turn of the decade. Adams made the 8-by-10-inch negative for Moonrise in the late afternoon of November 1, 1941, while photographing in the Southwest on behalf of the U. S. Department of the Interior and the U. S. Potash Company of New Mexico.  Driving back to their motel after an unproductive day of photographing, Adams and his companions – son Michael and fellow photographer Cedric Wright – passed the tiny town of Hernandez.  Struck by the quality of light upon the town and its attendant cemetery, Adams immediately pulled the car over to the side of the road and hastily assembled his equipment.  Drawing upon his vast reservoir of photographic expertise, Adams made his exposure in the dying light without the benefit of his light meter.  Before he had the chance to make a second exposure, the sun sank behind a bank of clouds, and the light changed completely.  A full account of the taking of Moonrise, and its subsequent printing history, appears in Mary Street Alinder’s Ansel Adams: A Biography (New York, 1996), to which this catalogue entry is indebted. The resulting negative, made quickly and under trying conditions, proved difficult to print.  In order to make a print from it that met his high standards, Adams had to expend a great deal of time and energy in the darkroom coaxing the image through the printing process.  Because of this, Adams made only a few prints of the image in the early 1940s.  One was made for his friend Beaumont Newhall, Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art.  This print, now in MoMA’s collection, was used by Edward Steichen for reproduction in the 1943 U. S. Camera Annual.  Much handled over the years, the print is visibly worn.  Adams also made a print of the negative at David McAlpin’s request, and this is now in the collection of Princeton University Art Museum.  It is believed that there are two other early prints in private collections. Although Adams was reluctant to print the troublesome negative, by 1948 he had amassed a number of orders for it (most likely due to its publication in the Camera Annual).  Unwilling to toil further with the negative as it was, Adams undertook the harrowing step, in December of 1948, of reprocessing it.  After re-fixing and washing the negative, Adams submerged it up to the horizon line in Kodak IN-5 intensifier.  This increased the density in the image’s foreground making it comparatively easier to print.   That month, using his improved negative, Adams made a small number of prints, including the one offered here, owned by his assistant and friend, the photographer Pirkle Jones. Other prints made at this time include a print given by Adams to George Waters, inscribed and dated ‘1948’ by Adams on the reverse, now in the collection of the Getty Museum.  Another print, inscribed by Adams to Fred Ludekins, was offered in these rooms on 7 April 1998 (Sale 7112, Lot 101).  Adams sent a print to Beaumont Newhall and his wife Nancy, and this is now in a private collection.  Also in private collection is a print Adams made for a Mrs. Nichols. The tonal qualities of the few prints Adams made of Moonrise during the 1940s differ from those made later.  Early prints show numerous wispy clouds in the sky, in addition to a lustrous band of white above the mountains.   Adams printed this image with greater and greater contrast throughout his career, and his last prints show a dark black sky, differing radically from the more open, gray sky in the present print. Sotheby’s wishes to thank Andrea Gray Stillman for sharing her research on extant early prints of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

  • USA
  • 2006-10-17

Vortograph

Mounted to deckle-edged paper, signed in pencil on the mount, mounted again to tan board, titled and dated in pencil on the reverse, framed, 1917 This surprising and dynamic image is one of a small series created by Alvin Langdon Coburn in 1916 and 1917 that are generally recognized as the first abstract photographs. An American, Coburn was a member of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession, and was hailed by Stieglitz as the movement’s ‘youngest star.’  While living in London, however, Coburn was swept up in the Vorticist movement, and saw in it an opportunity to move the art of photography forward.  Working with an assembly of three mirrors, and a selection of crystals and prisms, Coburn created entirely novel images that he dubbed Vortographs. Like the other proprietary ‘’graphs’  that were to follow in the coming decade—Rayographs and Schadographs, among them—the term Vortograph embodied not only a particular photographic technique, but an expression of one photographer’s visual imagination.  Spearheaded by the artist Wyndham Lewis and promoted by the American expatriate poet and critic Ezra Pound, Vorticism was the English response to the continental Futurist and Cubist movements.  A group exhibition in London in 1914 put the movement before the public, and a series of manifestos were published in Lewis’s graphically precocious journal BLAST.  In broad terms, Vorticist art is non-representational, vigorously geometric, and frequently characterized by dynamic diagonally-oriented compositions.  In this respect, Coburn’s Vortographs are very much of a piece with work by Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, Frederick Etchells, and other of the movement’s artists. Coburn’s introduction to Vorticism came through Pound, whom the photographer met in 1913 while making portraits for his book More Men of Mark.  Through Pound, Coburn also gained access to the London avant-garde. Coburn, keenly attuned to Vorticism and its parallels in Europe, felt that photographers needed to incorporate new ideas into their work in order for photography to remain relevant.  In an article entitled ‘The Future of Pictorial Photography,’ published in the 1916 edition of Photograms of the Year, Coburn asked, ‘. . .why should not the camera throw off the shackles of conventional representation and attempt something fresh and untried?  Why, I ask you earnestly, need we go on making commonplace little exposures of subjects that may be sorted into groups of landscapes, portraits, and figure studies?  Think of the joy of doing something which it would be impossible to classify, or to tell which was the top and which the bottom!’ It was with this sense of adventure that Coburn embarked upon his series of Vortographs.  The first images he made with his Vortoscope were of Pound, in which the poet is attended by reflections of himself and various angular, abstract shapes.  These set the stage for the fully non-representational photographs to come.  Coburn’s inclination to abstraction, hinted at in earlier images (e.g., The Octopus, 1912; Station Roofs, Pittsburgh, 1910) is fully realized in the Vortographs.  As Keith Davis writes, Coburn’s Vortographs ‘represent the first body of artistic photographs in history to embrace total abstraction. . . the best of these Vortographs are quite remarkable: boldly composed, mysteriously unreal, and intensely vibrant with light and energy. . . These images are, most importantly, about the idea of form and power, and come as close as any ever made to giving pictorial expression to thought itself’ (An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital, second edition, p. 118). The print offered here was originally given by Coburn to his close friend Leonard Arundale, with whom he shared an abiding interest in Freemasonry.

  • USA
  • 2014-03-31

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