Auctions | September 28, 2015

Highlights of Swann Galleries’ October Auction of Icons & Images


New York—On Thursday, October 15, Swann Galleries’ Photographs & Photobooks department will offer Icons & Images: Fine & Vernacular Photographs, featuring portraits by Sally Mann and Irving Penn, geometric and architectural images from Vera Lutter and Barbara Kasten, serene images of nature from Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz as well as vernacular imagery including works from the collection of noted Folk Art dealer Gerald Kornblau.

The top lots of the sale are intimate works of portraiture from Sally Mann and Irving Penn. Mann’s iconic 1989 silver print Candy Cigarette depicts her daughter Jessie, while Penn’s 1957 silver print Pablo Picasso, Cannes, shows the artist gazing at the viewer over the embroidered collar of his coat (estimate for each: $100,000 to $150,000).  Other portraits in the auction include Penn’s 1951 silver print Colette, Paris (printed later) ($8,000 to $12,000) and Henry Van der Weyde’s printing-out paper print of prominent Irish-American Labor leader Mary Harris Jones a.k.a “Mother Jones” ($2,500 to $3,500).

Among the landscapes and nature images in the sale are Ansel Adams’s Portfolio #4 “What a Majestic World, In Memory of Russell Varian,” 1963, a limited edition portfolio containing 15 silver prints of landscapes ($50,000 to $60,000); Alfred Stieglitz’s 1933 silver print Lake George Grasses ($25,000 to $35,000); William Henry Jackson’s hand-tinted albumen prints, a 2-part mammoth-plate panoramic view of the Portland Gold Mining Company, circa 1897 ($20,000 to $30,000); and a portfolio entitled Views of America, including 7 photographs by the great classical American photographers: Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, William Eggleston, Lotte Jacobi, Eliot Porter, James Van Der Zee and Garry Winogrand. The auction also features Nick Brandt’s 2003 pigment print Cheetah in Tree, Maasai Mara ($10,000 to $15,000), an image that highlights not only the natural majesty of a big cat its natural habitat, but showcases the photographer’s commitment to animal activism.

The auction will also feature a number of images from American photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, including an oversized silver print from The Country Doctor series published in LIFE magazine, 1948, printed circa 1953 ($12,000 to $18,000); a silver print of Nurse Midwife (Maude Callen), from Smith’s 1951 photo-essay for LIFE ($2,500 to $3,500); and the striking Tomoko Uemura in her Bath, a heart wrenching silver print from 1971-73 depicting the effects of Minamata disease ($10,000 to $15,000).

Urban, architectural and industrial images play with shapes, angles and perspective in many pieces in the auction, including Vera Lutter’s camera obscura silver print Pepsi Cola, Long Island City: IV A, May 20th 1998 ($6,000 to $9,000); Barbara Kasten’s oversized cibachrome print Architectural Site &, July 14, 1986 ($4,000 to $6,000); and Margaret Bourke-White’s silver print Molten Steel, Otis Steel Company, from 1928-29 ($9,000 to $12,000). 

Continuing Swann’s history of offering vernacular images and objects, this auction features an excellent run of vernacular photography, including several pieces from the private collection of the late Folk Art dealer Gerald Kornblau. Though Kornblau’s New York galley specialized in early American paintings, ceramics and sculpture, his personal collection was filled with images of Africana-Americana, the funerary arts, cowboys and cyanotypes, showcasing his interest in how images relate to material culture. Highlights from the Kornblau collection include a miniature archive of 45 remarkable Victorian and Edwardian-era funerary images ($3,000 to $4,500) and a selection of electroplated jewelry containing photographs including a daguerreotype pendant and two ambrotype lockets, among other items ($700 to $1,000).  Other compelling vernacular images include a pair of silver print mugshots of Russian-American anarcho-feminist Emma Goldman circa 1901-06 ($1,800 to $2,200).


The auction preview will be open to the public, with an exhibition opening Saturday, October 10 from noon to 5 p.m.; Tuesday, October 13 & Wednesday, October 14 from noon to 5 p.m.; and Thursday, October 15 from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated auction catalogue will be available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Daile Kaplan at 212-254-4710, extension 21, or via e-mail at

First image: Irving Penn, Pablo Picasso, Cannes, silver print, 1957. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.

Second image: Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette, silver print, 1989. Estimate $100,000 to $150,000.

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