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Rare Works by Irving Penn and Robert Frank Featured in Swann Galleries' Auction
Berenice Abbott's Portfolio titled "New York II." Complete with 12 dynamic photographs. Silver prints, 1930-1950; printed 1979 ($18,000 to $22,000).

New York.- Swann Galleries’ auction of Important Photographs & Photobooks on Thursday, December 9 offers some extraordinary works ranging from early photographic albums of exotic locales, to edgy contemporary works that challenge the viewer.

Early highlights include issues 12-21 and 38 of Camera Work, the photograph magazine created by Alfred Stieglitz, containing images by Edward Steichen, Stieglitz and Alvin Langdon Coburn among others, New York, 1905-08 and 1912 ($25,000 to $35,000); the Stieglitz photogravure The Hand of Man, an image of a locomotive spewing black exhaust, circa 1902 ($20,000 to $30,000); and albums with images of China, Hawaii, Japan and the Middle East. There are also many Native American portraits by Edward S. Curtis, as well as Alexander Gardner’s Lakota and Oglalla tribesmen Lone Horn, Pipe, Grass and Young Elk from the Laramie series, albumen print, 1868 ($7,000 to $10,000).

Scarce and desirable modern works include Claude Cahun’s Self-portrait with Roger Roussot in “Barbe-Bleue,” silver print, 1929 ($14,000 to $18,000); two different Irving Penn photographs of Alexandra Beller, New York, from the Dancer series, selenium-toned silver prints, 1999, printed 2000 ($7,000 to $10,000 and $18,000 to $22,000) and Penn’s Nude #17, New York, 1949-50, printed 1980 ($25,000 to $35,000).

There are two images that appear in Robert Frank’s groundbreaking book The Americans, gifted by the photographer to the current owner in the late 1970s, an image of a smiling African-American woman seated in a field in Beaufort, South Carolina, and a nurse holding a baby in Charleston, South Carolina, silver prints, 1955, printed 1970s ($25,000 to $35,000 and $10,000 to $15,000 respectively).

Notable portfolios include Brett Weston’s Twenty Photographs 1970-1977, featuring visionary landscapes and abstractions, from an edition of only 35, 1970-77, printed 1978 ($30,000 to $45,000); Ernst Haas’s The Creation, with 10 vivid dye-transfer photographs of nature, one of 300 numbered copies, 1962-81, printed 1981 ($8,000 to $12,000); and Berenice Abbott’s New York II, with 12 dynamic photos of the city, from an edition of 65, 1930-50, printed 1979 ($18,000 to $22,000).

Other highlights from a section devoted to Views of New York City include individual images by Abbott, as well as Andreas Feininger, Roy Schatt, William Klein, and Lee Friedlander. There is also a 12-image photo sequence piece by Duane Michals, I Dream the Perfect Day in New York City, 1977 ($7,000 to $10,000).

A selection of photojournalism and social documentary photographs features images from the war in Viet Nam, the JFK assassination, and two of South African photographer David Goldblatt’s Apartheid-era photos, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, and Prostitute, Fordsburgh, Johannesburg, silver prints, 1975 ($12,000 to $18,000 each).

Prized images of well-known figures include Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Henri Matisse, Vence, France, silver print, 1944, printed early 1970s ($7,000 to $10,000); Allen Ginsberg’s Jack Kerouac, silver print with extensive handwritten caption, 1957, printed 1984-97 ($3,000 to $4,500); Richard Avedon’s triptych of Igor Stravinsky, Composer, silver print, 1962, printed 1975 ($9,000 to $12,000); and Yousuf Karsh’s Ernest Hemingway, silver print, 1975, printed 1981 ($8,000 to $12,000).

There are several envelope-pushing contemporary works in the sale, such as a unique double composite from Jack Smith’s The Beautiful Book, silver print, 1962 ($6,000 to $9,000); Joel-Peter Witkin’s Penitente, N.M., silver print with a lightly distressed surface, 1982 ($8,000 to $12,000); Shirin Neshat’s I am its Secret, chromogenic print, 1993 ($8,000 to $12,000); and Qi Sheng’s My Left Hand (Memory Series), chromogenic print, 2007 ($6,000 to $9,000).

The photographic literature section includes a diverse selection of Japanese publications as well as rare titles by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Cartier-Bresson, Larry Clark, Robert Frank and Ed Ruscha.

Rounding out the auction are soaring landscapes by Ansel Adams, images of snow crystals and ice shards by Wilson A. Bentley, stop-motion experiments by Harold Edgerton, and several classic images by André Kertész.

The auction will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 9.

Swann Galleries | Irving Penn | Robert Frank |

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