News | June 5, 2024

Victorian Photographs that Helped Preserve Historic London Buildings to Auction

Chiswick Auctions

The Oxford Arms

The sale of 19th and 20th century photographs at Chiswick Auctions on June 6 includes a group of 14 images from the influential series published by The  Society for Photographing Relics of Old London from 1867-78. 

The society was initially formed to record and preserve  the Oxford Arms, a 17th century galleried coaching inn on Warwick Lane near St Paul’s Cathedral which had  been earmarked for demolition the following year. The group commissioned the photographers Alfred and John  Bool to document the building, with the prints proving so popular that the Society went on to commission 120 more photographs from A&J Bool and Henry Dixon over the next dozen years.

While the outcry the photographs created was not enough to save the Oxford Arms (The George in Borough is London’s only surviving coaching inn) it helped change public opinion and led directly to the foundation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877 that continues to operate today. 

This lot of 14 carbon prints contains two of the views of  the Oxford Arms plus images of other London ‘relics’ threatened at the time with demolition including the Sir Paul Pindar House, Bishopsgate (1878) and the church of St Bartholomew the Great (1877) that still stand today. It is estimated at £800 - £1,200.

The sale includes photographs from two well-known collections formed in the late 20th century. Two prints from Eadweard Muybridge’s celebrated work Animal Locomotion (1887) were formerly part of the collection of Sir Elton John sold at auction in New York in 2004. Titled Walking and Throwing a Spear - they show two women walking side-by-side and a man throwing a  javelin - they have an estimate of £800 - £1,200. 

Over 70 lots were previously among the private collection of Robert Kirschenbaum (1936-2023), the head of the Pacific Press Agency which managed a roster of international photographers in Tokyo for more than 50 years. Kirschenbaum developed close friendships with some of the best-known photographic masters of the 20th century, and many of the prints being offered for sale were personal gifts, direct from the photographers themselves.

These lots include prints of classic 20th century images such as Ansel Adams’ 1963 Dunes, Oceano, California (estimate £5,000 - £7,000), Lee Friedlander’s 1969 Mount Rushmore, South Dakota (estimate £3,000 - £5,000), André Kertész’s 1965 Washington Square Park, New York City (estimate  £4,000 - £6,000) and Bill Brandt’s 1952 London (Nude with  Bent Elbow) (estimate £6,000 - £8,000). 

A celebrated and early work by French master Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is Cyclist, Hyeres, France. The Surrealist image in which a bicyclist streaks by an iron railing was taken with a 35mm Leica  camera in 1932 before Cartier-Bresson was a  professional photographer. Issued in the 1980s, Kirschenbaum’s print of this image has a guide of £6,000 - £8,000.

The sale also includes a copy of the first portfolio published by the Royal Photographic Society's Pictorial Group in 1931. The selection of six large format photogravures titled Pictures from the Tyng Collection features copies of some of the original works bought by the society following an endowment from New Yorker Stephen H Tyng. The first plate of the portfolio (estimate  £2,000 - £3,000) is Rudolf Koppitz's celebrated signature image, Bewegungs Studie (Study of Movement), a  dramatic and stylised portrait of dancers from the  Vienna State Opera Ballet, originally made in 1925.