1904 Photograph by Edward Sherriff Curtis Achieves $34,375 on November 22, 2016
Sale of Photographs Showcased Examples by Prominent Photographers of the 20th and 21st Centuries
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Doyle’s auction of Photographs on November 22, 2016 offered fine art, early photography, such as travel albums and daguerreotypes, and photographic literature.
Highlighting the sale was a classic 1904 view of the American West by Edward Sheriff Curtis that achieved $34,375, far exceeding its $10,000-15,000 estimate. Curtis began his career as a photographer in 1885, at the age of seventeen. After a move to Seattle in 1887, he became a partner in a photographic studio. It was not until 1895 that he took his first photograph of a Native American, and by 1889 he had been appointed the official photographer of the Harriman Alaska Expedition. Though antedating the beginning of his epic work The North American Indian, begun in 1906 (funded to the tune of $75,000 by J.P. Morgan), the image entitled Cañón de Chelly, taken in 1904, appeared in photogravure as plate 28 in Portfolio 1 of that epic work. It has since become one of his most famous images. This example was produced in orotone (which Curtis rechristened Curt-Tone); the process involves printing the positive image on glass, with the rear of the plate being subsequently gold-coated, resulting in an image exhibiting brilliant gold tones, especially in the highlights, which in this larger-format example are exceptionally rich. It retains its original Curtis frame and label.
In the winter of 1944, the celebrated photographer Ansel Adams took a series of images of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Lone Pine, a small town in the Owens Valley of California. These magisterial images of snow-covered peaks viewed across open meadows and forest capture the startling beauty of this region as no other photographer has done, in part because of the technical precision of Adams’s composition and printing.
Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, taken in 1932, epitomizes that photographer’s concept of the decisive moment. The central figure, a blur of motion, is leaping precipitately from a rickety wooden structure, apparently to land in a pool of shallow water. What takes the photograph from the mundane to the sublime is the abstraction in the foreground created by various curved cast-offs, the echoed image of the leaping figure created by his shadow, and a figure standing in the background disinterestedly examining this exercise in folly: all of these create an atmosphere in the photograph that approaches the ritualistic.
George Hoynigen-Huene’s Divers. Horst with Model, Paris Izod, 1930 is a photographic icon of a very different kind. The languid pose of the model and the photographer’s partner Horst (a fine photographer in his own right), their apparent disinterest in the camera, with gazes focused out to sea, and the almost gauzy quality of the platinum-palladium print create an ambiance that is very much emblematic of the period. It is one of the greatest of glamour images precisely because it does not set out to involve the viewer in the physical attractiveness of the subjects, but rather their two relaxed forms, that of the woman leaning slightly into the lens. It is a little masterpiece of understatement.
W. Eugene Smith’s Saipan, fully titled Frontline Soldier with Canteen, Saipan, 1944 was taken in the Pacific Theater, before Smith was seriously wounded the following year. This image (as with many of Smith’s superb photographs) is all about the involvement of the viewer. Smith had a compassionate eye, as can be seen in many of his images throughout his career. This exhausted, dehydrated G.I. is also an emblem of how men suffer in war, as well as being straight reportage. The Battle of Saipan was a bloody three-week affair, resulting in major American casualties but an ultimate victory, in which almost the entire thirty-thousand man Japanese garrison was killed or committed suicide.
Photobooks sold included signed copies of both Robert Frank’s The Lines of My Hand (the 1972 Tokyo edition) and the classic New York edition of The Americans, 1960, with its introduction by Kerouac. Of later vintage was William Wegman’s very rare Field Guide to North America and to Other Regions, one of twenty assembled sets, with photographs, collages, hand-written text and found objects and the portfolio Artists and Photographs, 1970, with work by Ruscha, Rauschenberg, Christo, Warhol and others.
All prices include the Buyer's Premium.
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For information, please contact Edward Ripley-Duggan at 212-427-4141, ext 234, or Peter Costanzo at ext. 248, or email Photographs@Doyle.com