Photos in the 1920s
1920 Interlude below a Roof Dormer
2017 SOLD for $ 730K including premium
Edward and Margrethe are influenced by the circle of Stieglitz but New York is too far away for them. They seek an original conception of photographic art based on the catching of geometry in scenes of daily life. The nude female breast is a favorite theme of Edward.
For some years Edward has replaced silver with palladium which offers a great subtlety in the shades of gray and a lustrous surface. For his best images he is already looking for perfection. The complexity of his work in the dark room requires a painstaking preparation and his early palladium prints are very rare.
At the end of 1920 Edward spent two weeks of passionate love with Betty whom he had met in a nightclub. He is photographing her in several rooms of her house. On October 10 in New York, Christie's sells Betty in Her Attic, a 23 x 19 cm palladium print on 46 x 35 cm paper, titled, signed and dated 1920 on the mount. This photo is estimated $ 600K, lot 323.
This composition between surrealism and constructivism is highly original in the art of Weston. Its main theme is the light transmitted to the white walls through an out of field dormer window. The oblique setting of the attic is reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the famous movie released a few months earlier.
The woman in her long dress is standing in the darkness, coiled in an angle of the wall. Her silhouette is underlined by a geometrically illogical shadow that was certainly added in the lab. A foot reaches a spot of light on the ground like an invitation to dance.
Five years later the details of Miriam's nude body will make Edward Weston the best photographer of his time.
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
1924 Gloria with the Veil
2014 SOLD 630 K$ including premium
In 1924 the new wonder of the silent film is Gloria Swanson. She went for a sitting in Steichen's New York studio.
Gloria is 25 years old. Dynamic and enjoying, she accepts to play the game. The decisive accessory is a veil of black lace with a leaf pattern through which she looks at the photographer. The artist and the model deepen this theme. Thus was born one of the early masterpieces of celebrity photography. Her wide open eyes provide the young actress with the strength of a leopardess.
Steichen was ahead of his time. This image was not published until February 1928 when the glory of the star is already threatened by the talkies.
An early print 24 x 20 cm is estimated $ 300K, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on April 1, lot 15 in the catalog. Another copy of same size was sold for $ 540K including premium by Phillips de Pury on April 24, 2007.
POST SALE COMMENT
This early print of an outstanding photo was sold for $ 630K including premium.
1925 Fotogramm (Hands) by Moholy-Nagy
2012 SOLD for $ 1.48M including premium by Sotheby's
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 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.
1927 German Portraits
2014 SOLD for $ 750K including premium
The highly social idea of this miner's son was to testify that the dignity of men could have survived the First World War. He published a selection of 60 of his Menschen in 1929 under the title Antlitz der Zeit (Faces of our time), anticipating by 26 years Steichen's great compilation of The Family of Man.
Handlanger, the brick wearer, is an important image in the Antlitz selection. The worker with a straight gaze performs his task without complaining about his burden in a natural attitude which excludes pride.
A 21 x 15 cm print dated 1927 of Handlanger mounted on paper and protected by a vellum was sold for £ 265K including premium by Sotheby's in London on 27 October 1999, in the first part of the sale of the Jammes collection. It is estimated $ 350K, for sale bySotheby's in New York on December 11, lot 16.
The same auction includes a 28 x 20 cm portrait of the painter Anton Räderscheit, lot 36 estimated $ 150K. Well introduced in the circles of progressive artists, Sander, who made several portraits of Otto Dix, was abused by the Nazis and many of his photographs were destroyed.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Portrait of the brick wearer : $ 750K.
Portrait of the painter : $ 270K.
1927 The Mating of Two Empty Shells
2013 SOLD 530 K$ including premium
The "portrait" of a shell in front view on black background is the most famous image in this series. Its sharp vision is confusing the observer, but it is still respecting zoology: a single shell is featured.
One of the best reasons of Weston's prestige is the extreme care brought by him in his prints. In 1927, he worked on matte paper. Two different copies 24 x 18 cm of the nautilus made that year from the same negative were recently sold by Sotheby's: $ 1.1 million including premium on October 15, 2007, $ 1.08 million including premium on 13 April 2010.
The photo to be sold on April 5 by Sotheby's in New York is from the same year, same size and same photographic technique, but from another negative that can no longer excite the biologists.
With a beautiful surrealist influence which is not surprising at that date, Weston has nested a shell in the cavity of another one without breaking them. The axis angle between both elements creates the illusion of a strange gaze to this still life.
This masterpiece which is contemporary of Weston's negative is a rare photograph, estimated $ 600K. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, $ 530K including premium, remains far below the estimate. This image may not be the most iconic of the series.
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.
1929 Light without a Lens
2013 SOLD 510 K$ including premium
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 Photograms 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 is estimated $ 200K, for sale by Christie's in New York on April 4. This image is all the more valuable as the original was lost. Here is the link to the catalog.
The Photogram 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 $ 1.48 million including premium by Sotheby's on 12 December 2012 from an estimate of $ 300K.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold $ 510K including premium, this outstanding photo went well above its higher estimate.
Even better: in the same auction, a spectacular Rayograph made by Man Ray in 1922 was sold $ 1.2 million including premium from a lower estimate of $ 250K. Here is the link to the catalog.