New York— Swann Auction Galleries launches into 2018 with the wide-ranging auction Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobooks on Thursday, February 15. Scarce and one-of-a-kind works will be offered, incorporating the full spectrum of the medium, from nineteenth-century land surveys to fine art photographs printed this century.
The highlight of the sale is a run of 24 prints of Lewis W. Hine’s most iconic images, spanning the entirety of his career, each boasting the handstamp of Hine’s Hastings-on-Hudson studio, as well as notations in his own hand. The works were previously owned by Isador Sy Seidman, a friend of Hine, photographer and lifelong collector of photographs of New York City. An extremely rare early printing of the monumental Powerhouse Mechanic, or Mechanic at Steam Pump in Electric Power House, leads the sale at $70,000 to $100,000. It was printed circa 1921, about a year after the photograph was taken. In some cases, Hine’s notations on the verso serve as alternative titles for famous works. For example, One of many youngsters working in Carolina cotton mills is frequently listed as Sadie Pfeifer, a Cotton Mill Spinner, Lancaster, South Carolina; taken in 1908 and printed 1931, it is here estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. Additional highlights from this collection, which has never before appeared at auction, include recognizable images—some contact prints—of immigrants at Ellis Island, a group of “newsies” and various Empire State Building views.
Recurring characters in the sale are the art world’s favorite love triangle, Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothy Norman and Alfred Stieglitz. Offered is an illuminating archive of works by both Stieglitz and Norman, with Stieglitz’s notes to the aspiring photographer written in pencil on the mats. These include “Perfection!” and “Wonderful,” but most intriguing is a snapshot by Norman with the letters “ILY” (“I Love You”) repeated hundreds of times by Stieglitz until the symbols create a hypnotic graphic texture covering the mat. The suite, led by a circa 1931 portrait of Norman by Stieglitz, carries an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 and originally comes from the estate of Dorothy Norman. Meanwhile, photographs of O’Keeffe, Stieglitz’s wife, include the master’s own Hands of Georgia O’Keeffe, no. 26, 1919, printed late 1940s, estimated at $12,000 to $18,000, and the candid portrait by Ansel Adams of Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox, 1937, printed late 1960s, with an estimate of $18,000 to $22,000. Adams is additionally represented in the sale with such icons as the famous Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941, printed before 1977 ($30,000 to $45,000).
The sale offers a notably fine selection of nineteenth-century works, including R. B. Talfor’s Photographic Views of the Red River Raft, 1873, of which only three copies are known to exist. In 113 stunning hand-colored views, the album records the second attempt by the Louisiana government to clear the “raft” of fallen trees that clogged the river ($18,000 to $22,000). Leading an edifying selection of photographs of Brazil is an album containing 19 hand-colored salted paper prints of women at work, 1861-62, carrying an estimate of $9,000 to $12,000. Additional highlights include two midcareer works by Gustave le Gray, a veritable who’s-who of Victorian cartes-de-visite and an album of architectural cyanotypes of Haiti, 1895 ($6,000 to $9,000). Rare works by Edward S. Curtis are led by the complete fifth volume of his magnum opus, The North American Indian, 1907, with 36 photogravures on vellum ($18,000 to $22,000).
Engaging portraits by twentieth-century masters include Diane Arbus’s Young Waitress at a Nudist Camp, New Jersey, 1963, printed by Neil Selkirk, with an estimate of $9,000 to $12,000, and Garry Winogrand’s Victor Riesel, 1957, one year after he was blinded in an acid attack in Manhattan ($14,000 to $18,000). Also available is a double portrait by Roy DeCarava of Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge, 1956, printed 1981, estimated between $15,000 and $25,000. Works by Nick Brandt, Michael Dweck, Robert Frank, Horst P. Horst, Sally Mann, Herb Ritts, Cindy Sherman, Robert Silvers and Bert Stern ensure a well-rounded sale.
The auction will have its share of haunting landscapes, led by Josef Sudek’s foreboding one-of-a-kind pigment print Gravestone of the Rabbi Lowe, the Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague, 1932, with an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000, as well as the silver print Landscape (lake scene), 1920s ($10,000 to $15,000). André Kertész is well-represented, most notably by the large-format modern prints, Carrefour Blois, 1930, and Chez Mondrian, 1926 ($18,000 to $22,000 and $15,000 to $25,000, respectively).
Image: Lot 60: Lewis W. Hine, Powerhouse Mechanic, silver print, circa 1921. Estimate $70,000 to $100,000.