Auctions | February 6, 2020

American Photographers Shine Among Classic & Contemporary Photographs at Swann

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Margaret Bourke-White, The George Washington Bridge, warm-toned silver print, 1933. Estimate $50,000 to $70,000.

New York — Swann Galleries’ sale of Classic & Contemporary Photographs on Tuesday, February 25 will bring forth an impressive selection of works, with American photographers forming the foundation of the sale. Highlights include works by Edward Steichen, landscape images from Edward and Brett Weston, documentary photography and more.

A selection of floral studies forms a high point of the sale, with the scarce 1939 (printed 1940) Edward Steichen dye transfer print White Lotus. Shot at Steichen’s nursery in Umpawaug, CT and printed by Noel Deeks, who was associated with the master photographer from 1917 to 1942, the work is expected to bring $50,000 to $75,000. Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom, silver print, 1925, printed circa 1970, is present at $10,000 to $15,000, while Robert Mapplethorpe’s photogravures Three Roses in a Vase, 1983, and Tulip, 1984, are expected to bring $4,000 to $6,000 apiece.

A run of works by the masters of California formalism includes silver prints by Edward Weston, Brett Weston and Minor White. Highlights from the selection feature Edward Weston’s Eroded Rock, 1930 ($12,000-18,000), and Salt Beds, Floor of Death Valley (Dante’s View, Death Valley), 1938 ($5,000-7,500); Brett Weston’s Abstraction of Rocks, 1929 ($9,000-12,000), and Dune, Oceano, 1934 ($10,000-15,000); and White’s Beginnings, Rochester, New York (Frosted Window), 1952 ($7,000-10,000), Moon and Wall Encrustations, Pulneyville, NY, 1964 ($6,000-9,000), and Butte, Utah, 1964 ($4,000-6,000).

Studies in architecture verging on abstraction are led by Margaret Bourke-White’s 1933 warm-toned silver print The George Washington Bridge. The photo comes to auction from the collection of Robert Edward Kiehl, by descent, and is estimated at $50,000 to $75,000. Charles Sheeler’s propensity for complex compositions is on display with Buggy in a Barn, Doylestown, Pennsylvania (Christmas Card), sepia-toned silver print, 1915-17, printed 1928, with an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. In 1932 Sheeler created a charcoal drawing from the image, now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Harry Callahan’s multiple exposure silver print Chicago, circa 1948, is present at $15,000 to $20,000.

Portraits of artists include Steichen’s silver contact prints Constantin Brancusi, Voulangis, France, 1922, and Portrait of Henri Matisse, 1930 ($10,000-15,000, respectively); Mapplethorpe’s silver print of Annie Leibovitz, 1983 ($4,000-6,000); Dawoud Bey’s The Artist Sana Musasama, silver print, 1986-87 ($2,000-3,000); and Phillipe Halsman’s silver print of Georgia O’Keeffe, 1976 ($2,000-3,000). 

Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans work for the Farm Security Administration include Lange’s Family Walking on Highway, Five Children, 1938, printed circa 1960 ($4,000-6,000) and Evans’s 1936 silver print Company Houses for Steel Mill Workers, Birmingham, Alabama ($6,000-8,000).

Additional documentary photographs include Peru, 1947. Congreso Panamericano de Arquitectos—a presentation album with 104 original photographs, of which 22 are by Martín Chambi. The images feature indigeonous people, pre-Colombian sites, artifacts, and architecture in addition to street scenes. The album was given to R. Berjman on the occasion of a Pan American Conference dedicated to architecture. The work is expected to bring at $30,000 to $40,000.

The popular vernacular section includes a group of six photographs of suffragists featuring images of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony ($800-$1,200); a collection of approximately 110 film stills from the 1933 movie King Kong with images of Skull Island and King Kong atop the New York City skyline ($2,000-3,000); an industrial album of 33 silver prints depicting the Redland, California distribution company’s process from production to distribution with images of employees, factory workers crating, canning and shipping oranges, as well as supermarket displays ($1,000-1,500).

A select group of photobooks includes a signed copy of Man Ray’s Photographies, 1920-1934, to Jack P. Mayer ($4,000-6,000); Alfred Steiglitz’s Souvenir Kodak Competition, 1905, with 10 mounted photographs by Steiglitz, Steichen, Anne Brigman and others ($4,000-6,000); and Karasu [Ravens], 1986, by Masahisa Fukase ($2,500-3,500).

Exhibition opening in New York City February 20. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and on the Swann Galleries app.