Chronology : 1907 1926 1936
Please note that the date in the subtitles below is the date of the print, when known
1904 The Pond by Steichen
2006 SOLD for $ 2.9M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Eduard 'Edward' Steichen meets Stieglitz in New York City in 1900. He is 21 years old. They collaborate closely, and Steichen deepens his research aimed at making photography recognized as an art in its own right.
The success of a photographic image depends on the quality of the entire chain, from the shooting to the processing in the laboratory. Steichen practices the process with gum bichromate, recommended by Demachy. This process makes it possible to reproduce an illusion of colors, in a more subtle way than a simple watercoloring.
Steichen does not shy away from difficulties. One of his favorite themes is moonlight, with its subtle colors. He is a painter and observes these scenes imagining which pigments he can use. In 1904 he takes the plunge. His photograph of a pond in New York is an opportunity to experiment with an ambience effect by applying the gum bichromate in multiple layers.
The task is long and difficult. Steichen achieves three prints of his photo, each time with a different configuration of chemicals and layers. This interesting nocturnal effect, subtitled Moonlight or Moonrise, reveals the moon twice : on the horizon through a sparse wood and by the pale light it brings to the surface of the pond.
One of the prints was donated by Stieglitz in 1933 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and another by Steichen in 1967 to the Museum of Modern Art. The third print was in a collection which was acquired as a whole by the Met in 2005. Considered as a duplicate in the Met collection, it was put back on the market by the museum.
The Pond - Moonlight, multiple gum bichromate print over platinum 40 x 50 cm, was sold for $ 2.9M including premium by Sotheby's on February 14, 2006 over a lower estimate of $ 700K, lot 6.
1904-1942 The Photographic Archive of Baseball
2016 SOLD for $ 1.8M including premium
Until 1942 Conlon is the anonymous author of the most important photographs of baseball, published and re-published in magazines, guides and sports cards. All the top players in Major League are displayed in his work.
Conlon shoots all his views on the field. He observes the differentiation of actions depending of the player, their method to hold the ball or the bat. His early negatives are made on glass plates 5 x 7 ". The improvement of the techniques then allows the photographer to use the format 4 x 5" on glass and later on acetate.
The increase of sensitivity now makes possible the view of a speedy movement in close up. His image freezing a spectacular action by Ty Cobb on July 23, 1910 is a masterpiece of instant photography.
The 7,462 original negatives taken by Conlon during the 38 years of his photographic career are housed in 85 boxes, each one around shoebox size. They are sold together at lot 80082 by Heritage in Dallas on August 27 with a guide value of $ 1M.
This complete archive is unique, sensational and irreplaceable in the history of baseball throughout its period. The sale includes only the photographs and in no way the intellectual property rights. Please watch the video shared by Heritage.
1905 The Favored Child of Pictorialism
2014 SOLD for $ 965K including premium
Pictorialism had been the last achievement of the nineteenth century, favoring atmosphere and privacy and neglecting the documentary interest. Coburn is one of the last Pictorialists, but his meticulous work in the darkroom allows new effects.
Made in 1905, Shadows and reflections, Venice, is his most famous image of that period. The small Venetian bridge is not identifiable. A woman wisely holds the strong point of the composition. A double exposure of the positive with two different techniques breaks realism in favor of dreams by introducing a warm shade and blurring the foreground reflections in the canal.
This picture has been published by Camera Work in 1908. In the same issue, an anonymous commentator who was probably Stieglitz treated Coburn of 'favored child', indirectly consecrating that this nonconformist was even ahead of the Photo Secession.
A print 36 x 29 cm was sold for $ 365K including premium at Christie's on 27 April 2004. This piece comes back for sale at Sotheby's in New York on December 11, lot 11 estimated $ 350K.
Coburn continued his pioneering work. In 1913, Octopus is his masterpiece. This image of a park is figurative, but the reinterpretation of the paths as arms of an octopus fascinates the viewer. In 1917, his Vortographs achieved through a complex set of mirrors anticipate the abstract and geometric researches of Bauhaus, Constructivism and Man Ray altogether.
A Vortograph 27 x 20 cm was sold for $ 600K including premium by Sotheby's on April 1, 2014. Another one is estimated $ 300K by Sotheby's on December 11, lot 12 in the same sale as above.
View of Venice : $ 965K including premium.
Vortograph : unsold
1907-1930 The Cultural Heritage of the American Indians
2012 SOLD 2.9 M$ including premium
When Curtis began to visit the western America, the tribal populations had declined dramatically, and many of them were snapped up by other forms of civilization. This is the end of an era.
When Curtis began recording thousands of photographs, this technique was already fully mastered. The photographer is no more a chemist or an experimenter, he can concentrate on his subject. This is the beginning of another era.
Compare dates: the first issue of Camera Work is published by Stieglitz in 1903. The first delivery of The North American Indian by Curtis, sold by subscription, in 1907.
Tirelessly, Curtis visited the 80 most authentic tribes. His friendship with some chiefs was facilitated by his application to use their own language, opening to him the path for the other communities.
When the publishing venture of The North American Indian ends in 1930 because of financial difficulties, Curtis had managed the most extraordinary and unsurpassed photographic documentary of all time: 2200 selected photographs distributed among twenty volumes of text and twenty portfolios.
The copy for sale by Christie's in New York on April 10 is complete. Kept in excellent condition, it is certainly the finest surviving example of this unusual work.
This lot is estimated $ 1M. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Its exceptional freshness enabled this highly important book to reach $ 2.9 million including premium.
1924 The Eye of the Architect
2019 SOLD for £ 950K including premium
The Soviets are attracted by the development of a useful art. A former collaborator of Malevich and an architect by training, El Lissitzky obtains in 1921 a mission of cultural ambassador to the Republic of Weimar. He is close to Moholy-Nagy in Weimar where Gropius has just created the Bauhaus, as well as to the Dada group led in Hannover by Kurt Schwitters and Käte Steinitz.
The photographic technique pleases both the Soviets and the anarchists by its speed of execution. It becomes a specific tool for which the camera is sometimes useless. New works of art are created by placing objects, texts or hands directly on the photosensitive surface. Photomontages use multiple exposures to capture the viewer through the effect of nonsense.
In 1924 Lissitzky shows his self-portrait in a collage including photomontages, titled The Constructor as to support a future architectural program. The eye comes right in the center of the palm of the hand that holds the compass and this transparent set is backed by a sheet of graph paper. The letters XYZ appear in positive and the name of the artist in negative, demonstrating the suitability of this technique to create promotional posters.
In the same year he made several photographic prints of this artwork. The largest known, 25 x 28 cm, was gifted by the artist to Steinitz. It is estimated £ 800K for sale by Christie's in London on March 6, lot 114. A 7.7 x 8.8 cm print was sold for $ 510K including premium by Sotheby's on December 12, 2012.
Made in the same year by Lissitzky, a 10.7 x 9.4 cm photomontage showing a double portrait of Schwitters with the inscription MERZ was sold for $ 250K including premium by Christie's on February 14, 2007 over a lower estimate of $ 6K.
#AuctionUpdate #ElLissitzky’s ‘Self-Portrait ('The Constructor')’, a powerful symbol of the artistic, political, cultural and societal sea-changes that upended the world in the 1910s and 20s sets a new #WorldAuctionRecord realising £947,250 pic.twitter.com/NRFsMSpH9d— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 6, 2019
1925 Nude by Weston
2008 SOLD for $ 1.6M including premium by Sotheby's
1925 Fotogramm (Hands) by Moholy-Nagy
2012 SOLD for $ 1.48M including premium by Sotheby's
1926 Africa in Paris
2017 SOLD for € 2.7M including premium
The Demoiselles d'Avignon whose heads resemble masks appears from then as a precursor of modern art. On the advice of André Breton, Jacques Doucet bought this painting from Picasso in December 1924. Picasso denied an African influence on that seminal example of his own primitive art.
Man Ray is much at ease in this intellectual bustle. In 1924 he takes a photo titled Black and white for which he juxtaposes an African mask with a nude statuette from the German Renaissance.
Another photograph by the same artist appears in May 1926 in the French edition of Vogue magazine. Titled Visage de nacre et masque d'ébène (Face in mother-of-pearl and ebony mask), it displays Kiki de Montparnasse with a Baule mask. With her eyes closed, Man Ray's muse has her head resting on a table on which the African object is held upright by her hand.
This image which is simply composed of two perfect ovals opens a vision of the opposites in the best surrealist tradition : white and black, Europe and Africa, horizontal and vertical, living and object. Its title became Noire et Blanche in 1928 without the agreement of the author.
The very first silver print of this photograph, 21 x 28 cm, was carefully prepared by the artist including many reworks to meet his ideal of perfection. Immediately acquired by Doucet, it makes Noire et Blanche appear as a response by Man Ray to the Demoiselles d'Avignon. This print is estimated € 1M for sale by Christie's in Paris on November 9, lot 8.
Always keen to his own promotion, Picasso no longer neglects the African trend. He highlights a posteriori the Demoiselles d'Avignon as the cornerstone of Cubism and looks for a young blonde muse with a flat nose. She will be Marie-Thérèse.
1927 Weston on Beach
2010 SOLD 1.08 M$ including premium
When details are involved, everything is mixed, a different world unfolds. A dune resembles a woman's back and the back of a woman resembles a dune. Thus an image of 1925, 13 x 24 cm, showing a naked woman from shoulders to buttocks reached $ 1.6 million including premium at Sotheby's on April 7, 2008.
In 1927, the artist is interested in shells. The most famous photograph of this series shows an empty nautilus, seen by the side of its aperture, well lit before a black background. This picture is disturbing in its simplicity. It is art. A copy of the nautilus of Weston, 24 x 18 cm, was sold $ 1.1 million including premium on October 15, 2007, by Sotheby's. It had been printed on matte paper on the year of the negative.
On April 13 in New York, the same auction house is selling another copy of the same photograph with the same characteristics, estimated $ 300K. The history of this copy had begun with emotion. It was offered for $ 10 in a gallery of San Francisco. A young client loved it at first sight, but she had no money for such a purchase. She was to pay by monthly installments of 50 cents before she could finally got it. This lot was unknown to the market as it remained in her family until now.
The image is shown as thumbnail above the press release shared by News-Antique.
POST SALE COMMENT
Is this an extraordinary regularity of the photographic market, or a mere coincidence? Sold $ 1.08 million including premium, this copy of the Nautilus of Weston reached almost the same price as the other copy sold in 2007.
1932 The Eye was in the City
2012 SOLD 1.48 M$ including premium
Freeing himself from the influence of Moholy-Nagy, he sees photography as a medium for an expressive composition and not as a technical feat. Far ahead of his time, he appreciates that the most disturbing images shall have the biggest impact. By this trend, we might be tempted to link his art, wrongly, to surrealism.
Executed in 1932, Lonely Metropolitan is a photomontage composed of photographic collages accentuated by black and white gouaches.
In the courtyard of a building, two hands are raised alongside. They are stopped at the top of the sleeve. Each palm is centered with the photograph of an eye, with the eyebrow superseding the upper horizontal line of the hand. The position of both eyes simulates a gaze.
The original photomontage or Fotoplastik, 41 x 30 cm, is estimated $ 300K, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 12.
Bayer edited this image from 1936 onwards.
I invite you to play the video shared by the auction house.
POST SALE COMMENT
Forget the estimate. This photomontage is rare and important, not only for understanding the artistic process of Bayer, but especially to mark the essential contribution of the Bauhaus in the construction of the modern world. It was sold $ 1.48 million including premium.
In the same sale, the photo of a hand by Moholy-Nagy was sold at the same price, $ 1.48 million including premium.
1935 The Later Story of the North American Indian
2012 SOLD 1.44 M$ including premium
Started with enthusiasm in 1907 during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the project had lasted too long.
When it was finally completed in 1930, with its twenty portfolios of large size photogravures 58 x 24 cm and twenty volumes of text 31 x 24 cm also illustrated with photographs, it was already a failure. With 222 subscribers, Curtis was far from achieving the target of 500 copies given to him by his sponsor, the banker Morgan.
The fabulous editing material of Curtis was purchased in 1935 by a dealer of rare books based in Boston, Charles E. Lauriat, who appreciated the importance of this work. Lauriat became the owner of few unsold complete copies, of all the original copper plates and of 285,000 prints.
With these elements, Lauriat assembled additional complete copies, by reprinting as necessary from the original plates the pages that had been outprinted, bringing the grand total to 291. Lauriat's death in 1937 put an end to the most outstanding photographic edition of all time. The Curtis-Lauriat material, rediscovered in the early 1970s, has not been dispersed.
On October 4 in New York, Swann sells a full set of The North American Indian, in which text volumes printed by Lauriat are completing portfolios prepared by Curtis. This copy has a rare feature: all images of three portfolios including number I are signed by Curtis.
This lot is estimated $ 1.25 M. It is illustrated in the release shared by Artdaily.
I invite you to play the video shared on YouTube by Swann Galleries.
POST SALE COMMENT
Very good price, $ 1.2 million before fees, 1.44 million including premium, especially when considering that the books of texts were not from the first issue.
1936 Tearful Woman by Man Ray
2017 SOLD for $ 2.17M including premium by Christie's
narrated later in 2017 before the sale of another print by Sotheby's (see below)
The artist reserves the painting for the dream images and preferentially uses photography for the compositions based on reality. This champion of eroticism regrets the lack of colors in art photography. The autochrome and the dufaycolor are only available in small size. Man Ray tries the best trichrome process but abandons immediately because the technical difficulty slows down the creativity.
Man Ray then tries the colored pencils over black and white prints. At the very beginning of photography, the miniaturists converted their business into photography by watercoloring the edition photos, bringing an illusion of realism that appealed to customers. The experiment by Man Ray is a rare application in his time of a similar practice in large format.
On October 19, 2017, Sotheby's sold for € 750K including premiumTearful Woman, a silver print 23 x 18 cm realized and hand colored by Man Ray and dated 1935.
The colors are varied and charming. The facial skin is smooth and pink. Under the carefully made up eyebrows, the eyes look upward, filled to the wet just before the tears drop. The deep red mouth is half open, showing that the gaze expresses emotion and not grief. The identity of the model is unknown.
Only one other print is extant. Dated 1936 and of the same format, it had belonged to Robert Mapplethorpe. It was sold by Christie's on May 17, 2017 for $ 2.17M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 400K, lot 7 B.
This attempt was a one off in two copies. The technical progress of color photography brings more direct processes. The Kodachrome for slides in cinema format is released in 1935 and the negative Kodacolor film in 1942.