Avedon Heads Strong Winter Sale at Swann

Work by Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, and Diane Arbus under the hammer
Courtesy of Swann Auctions

Diane Arbus, A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C

Richard Avedon’s portrait George Harrison, 1967, was one of the leading success stories at Swann Galleries’ winter 2023 sale of Fine Photographs. With an estimate range of $15,000-$20,000, it eventually sold at $38,000.

Courtesy of Swann Auctions

Richard Avedon’s portrait George Harrison, 1967

Avedon’s variant of his iconic psychedelic portrait of Harrison was taken in August 1967 when the twentieth-century master shot the Beatles in a studio at Gray’s Inn Road, London at a time when the band was at the peak of their fame. The first printed pictures from the session appeared in the January 9, 1968 issue of Look, and then later in Stern magazine.

“I am thrilled to see both classical and nineteenth-century photography perform so strongly,” said Deborah Rogal, Director of Photographs and Photobooks at Swann. “Our sale demonstrates that there’s excitement and power in areas of the market that are traditionally seen as out of fashion. I am also incredibly happy to see Richard T. Rosenthal’s material perform so well. He was so well-liked within the field, and the sale became a way to celebrate his mode of looking, collecting, and considering the medium, as well as an opportunity to offer new and exciting material to the market. Overall, the range of work—from a very modern Richard Avedon to something much lesser known and traditional in Lena Scott Harris—gives me hope for what’s to come.”

There was more success for Avedon’s work with an image from the iconic 1980s advertising campaign starring Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein jeans. This sold for $8,000.

Courtesy of Swann Auctions

Ansel Adams, Vernal Fall, Yosemite National Park

Other highlights included:

  • Irving Penn’s charming Old Friends: Balkin, Beaton, Platt Lynes, Joffe, Horst, Rawlings, Blumenfeld, Me (I.P.), Dorian Leigh (Vogue Photographers, Oyster Bay), 1946 which sold for $4,400
  • Ansel Adams, Vernal Fall, Yosemite National Park, silver print, 1950; printed 1963-70, which went for $8,500, his masterful rendering of the rushing water contrasted with the textured rocks and tree canopy being particularly noticeable
  • Featuring the famous movie star on the set of Something’s Gotta Give, a portfolio of a dozen oversize photographs by Lawrence Schiller entitled Marilyn, (silver & chromogenic prints, 1962; printed 2007) was sold for $12,000
  • Berenice Abbott, Berenice Abbott’s New York IV, a portfolio of silver prints, 1935-38; printed 1979 sold for $20,000
  • Edward S. Curtis’s landmark portrait Geronimo – Apache, plate 2 from The North American Indian, photogravure, 1905; printed 1907, finally went for $10,000
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson, Malcolm X, silver print, 1961; printed 1980s, made $5,400
  • Diane Arbus, A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C, silver print, 1966; printed 1972 (estimate $6,000-$9,000) was sold for $10,000. This photograph is one of ten Arbus chose in 1970 to represent her best
  • work and illustrates the complexity she brought to her art—at first glance she presents an ordinary idyllic family, but at the same time the disconnected gaze of each subject conveys a feeling of isolation.
  • Timothy O’Sullivan, Black Cañon, Colorado River, From Camp 8, Looking Above, albumen print, 1871 sold for $15,000 l