Sotheby’s New York Announces Photographs Auction for 5 October

Sotheby’s fall Photographs auction on 5 October 2011 in New York will offer a varied range of material from the 19th to the 21st centuries — from an early copy of Gardner’s Sketch Book of the War to Contemporary photographs by Peter Beard, Robert Rauschenberg, and Bernd and Hilla Becher. Of particular note are masterpieces of 20th-century photography by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Pierre Dubreuil, Paul Outerbridge, Imogen Cunningham, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn, among many others. The pre-sale exhibition opens on 30 September.


Ansel Adams, ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico’. Mural-sized gelatin silver print, 1941, probably printed in the 1960s or around 1970, 30.125 by 40 in. Est. $300/ 500,000.

As America memorializes the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Sotheby’s sale will feature an early copy of Alexander Gardner’s landmark Photographic Sketch Book of The War (est. $70/100,000,* right) a definitive collection of photographs chronicling this nation’s conflict. Gardner’s commanding full-length, seated Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (est. $30/50,000) is one of only a handful of Imperial-sized prints of this image extant, and was taken just eleven days before Lincoln delivered his seminal Gettysburg address.

Classic American photographs featured in the sale include an impressive mural-sized print of Ansel Adams’s iconic Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (est. $300/500,000, left), doubly remarkable for its two signatures. Other Adams highlights are a mural-sized print of Leaves, Mt Rainier National Park (est. $70/100,000), from the collection of Adams’s son and daughter; and a print of Yosemite Valley, Winter Storm (Clearing Winter Storm) (est. $30/50,000), acquired directly from the photographer in 1959 by a member of the National Park Service, and being sold by her descendent.

The catalogue’s cover features Modernist innovator Pierre Dubreuil’s Spectacles (est. $70/100,000, page 1), an expertly rendered image comprised of two of the basic elements of photography: lenses and light. Dubreuil’s The First Round (est. $150/250,000), one of only two known prints of the image extant, is a cleverly-balanced composition juxtaposing a pair of boxing gloves with the delicate face of a would-be boxer. Other highlights include a complete set of Alfred Stieglitz’s definitive photographic periodical Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly (est. $200/250,000, right); and Edward Steichen’s The Flatiron Building – Evening, New York (est. $70/100,000), an icon of pictorial photography and one of the most important images in the photographer’s oeuvre.

American Modernism is represented by four Paul Outerbridge platinum prints, comprising Sleepy Negro (est. $30/50,000); Waterford Glass Vase (est. $15/25,000); Hudson River Railroad Bridge (est. $30/50,000, left); and An Abstraction in Angles (est. $20/30,000), the last two works informed by the artist’s awareness of Cubism and other Modern trends in painting. Edward Weston’s Dummies, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, Hollywood (est. $50/70,000) is the best known and most enigmatic image from Weston’s visit to the MGM Studios in 1939. Other highlights include Tower of Jewels by Imogen Cunningham (est. $30/50,000); and Photographs From ‘Sequence 15’ (est. $50/70,000, right) by Minor White, one of White’s seminal sequences in which he explores the themes of physicality and spirituality.

Among the post-war photographs in the auction are several by Diane Arbus, including a rare lifetime print of Viva At Home (est. $100/200,000), which caused a scandal when it was published in the fourth issue of the newly-minted New York magazine, and was a personal gift from Arbus to the artist Tal Streeter. Another print made by Arbus is Charlie Lucas With Giant Buck Nolan, Lady Midget Margharita And Others, Hubert’s Museum, NYC (est. $15/25,000), part of a recently-discovered group of 27 photographs taken by Arbus at the legendary Hubert’s Dime Museum.

Modern fashion photography is well-represented by Irving Penn’s Girl Behind Bottle (est. $80/120,000), a masterfully-rendered platinum-palladium print; Richard Avedon’s Marella Agnelli, New York Studio (est. $40/60,000) and Stephanie Seymour, Model, New York City (est. $40/60,000); and Horst P. Horst’s iconic Mainbocher Corset (est. $30/50,000), among others.

Following the record set for Peter Beard at Sotheby’s in April, the sale includes an impressive mural-sized print of Maureen Gallagher and Late-Night Feeder, 2.00 AM (est. $120/180,000, left), the most extensively illustrated copy to appear at auction in recent years. Offered at auction for the first time, Robert Rauschenberg’s Studies for Chinese Summerhall (est. $40/60,000) is a suite of 28 color photographs taken during the artist’s 1982 trip to China. Other significant Contemporary works are Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Blast Furnaces (est. $70/100,000), a grid of 9 photographs; and large-scale color works by Candida Hofer, Edward Burtynsky, and Richard Misrach.

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