Auctions | March 30, 2021

Dorothea Lange Leads March Sale of Fine Photographs at Swann

Courtesy of Swann Galleries

Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (Horizontal), silver print, 1936, sold to a collector for $63,750.

New York — Swann Galleries’ March 11 sale of Fine Photographs saw strong results across the auction with humanist works and portraits drawing interest from collectors. “We were pleased to see strength across the auction at all levels. We continue to see a robust and enthusiastic response to both the classical and vernacular work, and strong results for Dorothea Lange, Peter Hujar, Julia Margaret Cameron, and others.” 

A run of Migrant Mother images by Dorothea Lange proved to be a highlight of the sale. Migrant Mother (Horizontal), 1936, led the sale at $63,750, a record for a Migrant Mother variant after the famous frame; the variant of Migrant Mother we have come to be familiar with, Florence Owens Thompson pensively looking out with her hand on her face, children tucked behind her, sold for $23,750; and a wide shot of the scene reached $22,500. Additional FSA photographs by Lange included Oklahoma sharecropper and family entering Calif. stalled on the desert near Indio, California, 1937, at $17,500; and Abandoned Tenant House, Hall County, Texas, 1937, at $12,500.

The rare, circa-1951 handmade personal album of 27 Parisian photographs by Ed van der Elsken, which sold for $21,250, represents an all-around record for Van Der Elsken at auction. “We have never seen a handmade book by Van Der Elsken on the market and believe the object to be unique. It is particularly gratifying to see material like this succeed, given its absolute rarity and the ways in which the piece can add to our understanding of a photographer who is now receiving new and much-deserved attention from collectors and institutions. I am so pleased that we can play a role in bringing material like this to the public,” Rogal reflected.

Portrait photography included Marilyn 12, 1962, printed 2007, portfolio by Lawrence Schiller, complete with 12 photographs depicting the famous starlet on the set of Something’s Gotta Give, achieving $21,250; Spencer Tracy, New York, 1948, by Irving Penn, at $20,000; Tattooed Man at a Carnival, M.D., 1970, printed early 1970s, at $18,750; and a serene 1975 image of writer Edwin Denby by Peter Hujar, which realized $12,500.

Additional highlights included early photography from Francis Frith with volumes of works from travels in the Near East and Holy Land, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Alfred Stieglitz with a run of issues of Camera Work, as well as contemporary studies by Penn and Adam Fuss.

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