Photos in the 1920s
1922 Rayograph by Man Ray
2013 SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2017 before the auction of two other photos by Christie's (see below)
In his new specialty as a photographer Man Ray imagines to position solid or openwork objects directly on the photosensitive surface. 80 years earlier Talbot had a similar practice for photographing the ferns. In such a process each image is unique.
Man Ray identifies his innovation as Rayographs coined on his own artist's name. Surrealists and Dadaists are delighted. The installation of everyday artefacts reminding the ready mades is appealing to the realists and the disturbing composition excites the poets.
A 24 x 18 cm Rayograph was sold on April 4, 2013 for $ 1.2M including premium by Christie's over a lower estimate of $ 250K, lot 17. Printed in a magazine in the spring of 1922 with a praise by Cocteau, this image had certainly been the very first published Rayograph.
On October 10, 2017, two Rayographs de-accessioned from the Museum of Modern Art passed at Christie's.
1924 Le Violon d'Ingres by Man Ray
2022 SOLD for $ 12.4M by Christie's
It features his model and lover Kiki de Montparnasse seated from the back. The head turned to her left is wearing a Turkish turban and an ear pendant. The voluptuous body in strong contrast with the black background is naked down to the draped hips.
Kiki is here performing the nude Grande Baigneuse by Ingres, later a central figure in le Bain Turc. The title of Man Ray's photo refers to the skill of Ingres for playing the violin, that became a French expression equivalent to the English 'hobby'.
The comparison of the female shape with a violin is reinforced by the fact that the arms are hidden and by the f-holes impressed on her back by reprocessing the original state with Man Ray's own rayograph technique.
The original print finished with the f-holes is a unique gelatin silver print 48.5 x 37.5 cm ink signed and dated 1924 by Man Ray. After being kept for half a century in the collection of its late owners, it was sold for $ 12.4M from a lower estimate of $ 5M by Christie's on May 14, 2022, lot 615.
For further prints the artist rephotographed the original rayogramme with a 5 x 7 inch camera. One of them was used by André Breton to illustrate his dada oriented Littérature magazine in 1924. A silver copy 31 x 25 cm that belonged to Breton was purchased in 1993 by Centre Pompidou.
It was to participate to the tattoo craze when young women had applied Man Ray's f-holes on their back.
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
narrated in 2013 before the sale of another photo by Christie's (see below)
In 1925, attracted by Miriam Lerner, he leaves his residence in Mexico for a short romantic break in California. The naked body of his friend inspires him. The study of curves is totally artistic, and photography escapes from its naturalist and documentary shackles.
A platinum print of Miriam's torso with crossed arms, 24 x 19 cm, was sold for $ 313K including premium by Sotheby's on 15 October 2007. On April 4, 2013, Christie's sold for $ 480K including premium a 15 x 17 cm palladium print of the same image.
Made at the same place and in the same year, a photograph of a laying female back, 13 x 23 cm on matte silver paper, was sold for $ 1.6M including premium by Sotheby's on April 7, 2008 from a lower estimate of $ 600K, lot 19. This minimalist body can not be formally identified but is quite probably Miriam's.
This series opens up the fascinating comparison by Weston between female body and nature. The beauty of curves is the unsettling common point between the nude, shells, peppers and sand dunes.
1925 Fotogramm (Hand) by Moholy-Nagy
2012 SOLD for $ 1.48M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2013 before the sale of another Fotogramm by Christie's (see below)
After the first world war, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, a young teacher at the Bauhaus, passionate about Suprematism and Constructivism, reuses that technique in his research on the expression of light, independently of similar work by Man Ray.
When the object thus printed on the sensitive paper, in one or more poses, is not recognizable, the result is an abstract photography, on black background, with beautiful flashes of light and subtle gradations of gray, with alternatively sharp and blurred sides. Helped by his wife Lucia, Laszlo realized afterwards some enlargements for the purpose of exhibitions or for preparing portfolios.
One of these abstract Fotogramms was designed between 1923 and 1925, probably with a folded paper somehow crumpled. An enlarged copy 37 x 27 cm made by Lucia in 1929 was sold for $ 510K including premium by Christie's on April 4, 2013.
The Fotogramm of the hand, to which the shadows bring a surreal vision, was realized in 1925 on 24 x 18 cm size. This photograph was sold for $ 1.48M including premium by Sotheby's on 12 December 2012 from an estimate of $ 300K, lot 20.
1925 The Perfect Forms of Miriam
2017 SOLD for $ 870K including premium
The encounter with the avant-garde artists of Mexico transforms Edward's artistic vision, now oriented towards the quest for perfect forms in ordinary artefacts and in bodies. Tina is 27 years old. She is slim and pretty. Edward studies the details such as her hands crossed on the dress and he also photographs her in full nudity.
Tina probably does not respond to Edward's aesthetic ideal. He resumes a contact with Miriam Lerner whom he had briefly met before leaving for Mexico. Miriam's gorgeous body between shoulders and buttocks meets the erotic and artistic desires of the photographer. They live together a passionate love in the early months of 1925 in Edendale, Los Angeles, before he comes back to Mexico City where Tina did not stop working for his glory.
A 13 x 24 cm matte silver print showing the waving geometric shapes of Miriam's nude back in a reclining position was sold for $ 1,6M including premium by Sotheby's on April 7, 2008 over a lower estimate of $ 600K.
On April 6 in New York, Christie's sells a highly rare palladium print 18 x 23 cm pencil dated 1925 and located in Edendale, lot 7 estimated $ 400K, not inscribed to Miriam but originally presented by the artist to her.
This study shows the nude body in a twist resting on both shoulders and on the edge of a buttock. The use of palladium brings a lustrous surface with very subtle hues in the grays for a soft vision that reinforces the suggestive eroticism of this headless chest.
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 Nautilus by Weston
2007 SOLD for $ 1.1M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2016 before the auction of another photo by Christie's (see below)
Back in California, Edward finds a new muse. He shows his pictures to Henrietta Shore who rebuffs him : you bore us with too many nudes. In an approach that is reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe's wild flowers on the other side of the United States, Henrietta watches eroticism and mysticism in the voluptuous forms of the nature.
Edward is convinced. Henrietta let him handle her collection of sea shells. The series of 14 negatives of portraits of empty shells on a black background realized by Weston in 1927 is a masterpiece of art photography.
Edward is aware of his own achievement and realizes many positive prints in that first year. The Nautilus is his favorite picture. He is a great photographer who does not keep an imperfect print. Two prints of this famous photograph fetched a nearly identical price at Sotheby's : 1.1M including premium on 15 October 2007, lot 18, and 1,08M including premium on April 13, 2010.
A highly rare positive print from the sixth negative passed at Christie's on October 4, 2016.
The photos of peppers made by Edward Weston in 1930 follow a similar artistic desire.
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.
later 1920s The Hands of Georgia O'Keeffe
2012 SOLD 770 K$ including premium
The hands of Georgia fascinate Stieglitz. The fingers are long and can bend with a great flexibility. The photographer appreciates that these hands of an artist are as important as a face to express the emotion and skill of the sitter.
On February 14, 2006, a 25 x 20 cm palladium print showing the hands of Georgia in 1919 was sold $ 1.47 million including premium by Sotheby's. On a black background, the wrists are bending for a hand to grab the other one in the light.
A print in warm tones of the same size is for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 12. Both hands are in opposition, in full light on the very dark skirt. The flexible fingers play.
This image was also created in 1919. The print made in the 1920s or very shortly afterwards was kept by Stieglitz until the end of his life and thereafter belonged to Georgia. It is estimated $ 800K. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was ambitious but this photo was one of the highlights of an outstanding collection. The result, $ 770K including premium, is good, although the estimate was not reached.