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Doyle New York to auction the Arthur Rothstein photograph collection in October
Arthur Rothstein, Girl at Gee's Bend, Alabama, 1937. Gelatin silver print, image 14 x 18 inches, signed in pencil, untitled. Estimate: $800-1,200. Photo: Courtesy of Doyle New York.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- Doyle New York to auction the Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 10am. The auction offers almost two thousand prints, vintage through 1980s, from the collection of his wife, Grace Rothstein. The images span Rothstein's long career as an award-winning photojournalist, and feature iconic Depression-era images including his iconic Dust storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma; as well as photographs of African-Americans in the rural South, England after the Blitz, Jewish refugees in Shangai, and stark images of rural China.

ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN
Arthur Rothstein was born in New York City in 1915 and became one of the most prolific and influential photographers of the 20th century. The broad scope of his work parallels that of American life from the Great Depression through the Reagan years, as well as international events from post-War famine in China to May Day in Moscow’s Red Square at the height of the Cold War. From Welsh coal miners to the Reichstag in ruins, to the unique documentation of the Jewish refugee population in Shanghai after World War II, it was said of Arthur Rothstein that he went everywhere, saw everything and brought his camera.

The images in the Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection range from the historical events that touched us all – Roosevelt meets with Churchill, President Kennedy’s funeral procession – to images equally profound, if on a smaller scale. We see, in contrast to the national display of mourning for President Kennedy, the devastation of an anonymous personal loss as a father places his emaciated son, stricken by famine, in a grave in rural China in the forties. Who will bear witness to this tragedy, the photographer seems to say rhetorically. His answer: Now we all will.

And similarly, there is the power of the iconic Dust Storm, Cimarron County image, widely regarded as one of the most ubiquitous images of the 20th century. We also see dignity in the face of the unemployed black man in Alabama during the Depression, adjusting his tie in the mirror, getting ready for Saturday night. And the regal face of a young girl in the window of a mud shack in Gee’s Bend. But there is a subtle humor as well. Arthur Rothstein was a pioneer in the use of what he called the “third effect”, a message that emerges when an image contains the wry juxtaposition of the written word. A shoe shine man in New York City sits under a sign quoting Disraeli on the importance of being in the right place when opportunity knocks. And then there is the display of dazzling technical expertise as pitcher Eddie Lopat delivers a fastball, his arm moving faster than the shutter speed. The Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection is stunning in its power, scope, technical prowess and beauty.

Arthur Rothstein was a gifted student, graduating from Stuyvesant High School and enrolling in Columbia College at age sixteen as a chemistry major. He developed an interest in photography from the technical side, working with film development techniques and eventually becoming a founding member of the camera club at Columbia. Upon graduation he was offered a job by Columbia economist Roy Stryker. Stryker had been asked by colleagues in the Roosevelt administration to form a group of documentary photographers to work within what eventually became known as the Farm Security Administration. In addition to Arthur Rothstein, the FSA photographers included Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, John Vachon and Marion Post Walcott, among others. Together they produced some of the defining images of the 20th century. Many of the works in this collection are among them.

One of the most extraordinary things about Arthur Rothstein was that he excelled in so many different photographic disciplines. He was not at all satisfied to be a documentary photographer alone, although he was a great one. He also excelled as a news photographer, a contract assignment photographer, a food photographer (often working with the food stylist Sylvia Schur), a commercial advertising photographer, and, of course, a pure visual artist, evidence of which is abundant throughout this collection. When asked what he felt his greatest strength was as a photographer, he invariably replied with one word: versatility.

Arthur Rothstein served during World War II in the Army Signal Corps and was stationed primarily in what is now known as Myanmar, formerly Burma. After the war, he resumed his career at Look magazine, in the position of Technical Director of Photography, a title he held until Look ceased publication in 1970. In that capacity he continued to travel the world on assignment, often bringing his wife Grace, an accomplished portrait photographer in her own right, with him to assist. He placed particular emphasis on the word “technical” as it appeared in his title with his name on the Look masthead. This was a part of his personality that permeated his life: he was an extraordinarily self-assured and competent person and wanted to emphasize that at the core of his craft was a comprehensive technical knowledge. This technical emphasis, a vestige of his earliest interest in photography as a chemistry student at Columbia, never left him. He continued to explore and develop new photographic techniques, including the Xograph three dimensional photo system. Arthur Rothstein was renowned for his technical expertise, and film and camera manufacturers, including Leica, Hasselblad, Kodak and Polaroid, would often send him prototypes as a routine part of their R&D process. He authored numerous published books, some of which were compilations of his documentary and other photographs, but several of his books were of a purely technical nature.

But beyond all of this expertise, or perhaps because of it, we can see in this collection the profound gifts of an extremely intelligent communicator. On a personal note, I can say unequivocally that Arthur Rothstein had the rare ability to speak in complete, fully formed paragraphs. If you asked him question, the response would start with a topic sentence, followed by a declarative exposition, and finally, a recapitulating conclusion. This, it seems, was a skill cultivated more in the education of people born a hundred years ago than it is today. It was the ability to improvise and compose simultaneously for the purpose of enhancing communication. We see this expressed in his craft, analogous to a great jazz solo: extemporaneous and visceral, but elegantly structured. Moments in time, fully formed.

Throughout his life Arthur Rothstein sought to combine his prodigious technical and compositional skills in the service of compelling visual communication. He frequently referred to a quote from one of his influences, the photographer Lewis Hine, that the purpose of a photograph is “to show what needs to be appreciated and to show what needs to be changed.” The Arthur Rothstein Photograph Collection is evidence of his abundant success in advancing that ideal.

"Because powerful images are fixed in the mind more readily than words, the photographer needs no interpreter. A photograph means the same thing all over the world and no translator is required. Photography is truly a universal language, transcending all boundaries of race, politics and nationality." -- Arthur Rothstein

Doyle New York | Rothstein | photograph |


Last Week News

September 27, 2011

Israel's national museum and the web giant Google launch digital Dead Sea scrolls

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Sotheby's New York to hold its first evening sale of Contemporary prints in October

High presents exhibition showcasing the distinguished Huber Family collection of American art

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New York's revered Salmagundi Club announces details of October art auction fundraisers

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Pennsylvania's Brandywine Museum shows N.C. Wyeth's Treasure Island paintings

Property from the Estate of "The Music Man" Meredith Willson on the auction block

Metropolitan Museum launches expanded and redesigned website with more than 340,000 works of art

Indian Highway: A 360° portrait of the sub-continent and its "miracle" at Maxxi

"Ides of March" denarius sets record at Heritage Auctions Long Beach event       

New international centre for the visual arts designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects opens in Colchester

Historian accused in theft case seeks to sell art

Rimer Cardillo exhibition at Nassau County Museum of Art

Art Miami Buys the LA Art Show

Bonhams to sell collection of Australia's leading aboriginal artist, Paddy Bedford

Des Moines Art Center celebrates sesquicentennial of the Civil War with new print exhibition

Thirteen paintings and works on paper by Emilio Sanchez at Frederico Sève Gallery

IDC commissions Tim Forbes to design Distinct Commemorative Sculptures for new Interior Design Awards

September 26, 2011

Andy Warhol's headline works presented by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

80 outstanding 19th century French drawings from the Louvre go on view at the Morgan Library

With over one hundred loans "Picasso 1905 in Paris" exhibition at Kunsthalle Bielefeld

American artist Dan Colen's first major exhibition in Rome opens at Gagosian Gallery

Dutch and Flemish paintings on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg

The Denver Art Museum is first venue for "Robert Adams: The Place We Live" exhibition

Rijksmuseum is largest loaning institution to exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

Exhibition of recent work by Japanese artist and architect Yutaka Sone at David Zwirner

Major exhibition on Sam Maloof and his circle of artist friends on view at the Huntington Library

Survey exhibition of paintings and drawings by Hans Burkhardt at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

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NRW-Forum Exhibition by Magnum photographers focuses on war and crisis photography

Connecticut College's steel house by Winslow Ames getting chance to shine again

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FLAG Art Foundation presents two exhibitions: Art², a group exhibition and Jane Hammond: Fallen

High presents major exhibition of wildlife sculptures by artist Grainger McKoy

September 25, 2011

Lehmbruck Museum's most extensive exhibition celebrates its 100th anniversary

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Presents "Andy Warhol: Shadows"

Houston's Menil Collection Announces Return of Byzantine Frescoes to Cyprus in 2012

MFA Houston announces major Frank Stella acquisition: "Palmito Ranch" (1961), a landmark in American painting

Made in the UK: Contemporary art British art at the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design

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Third solo exhibition by Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes on view at Galerie Max Hetzler

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The Rencontres D'Arles: Photography festival 2011 breaks attendance record

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September 23, 2011

"MemyselfandI: Photo portraits of Picasso" opens at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne

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Tate Britain unveils John Martin's lost masterpiece for the first time in almost a century

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