On April 4, 2013, Christies
will commence its spring Photographs sales in New York with the deLIGHTed eye: Modernist Masterworks from a Private Collection. This extraordinary collection of 70 vintage prints executed mainly between 1900 and 1925 was formed by a private collector based in South America with his advisor, Jill Rose, who later became Vice President of the International Center of Photography. In building the collection, it was their intent to focus on photographers who had been keenly influenced by the artistic revolution in Western Europe at the turn of the century, and who in turn profoundly affected the history of the medium. The sale expects to realize in excess of $5.2 million.
I love my collections as living beings and that is why I have always named them. I call this one the deLIGHTed eye. One reason for the name arose from the fascination I have for photographs new and ingenious use of light, so very much freer than in contemporary painting. In addition, these photographs have delighted my eyes. And they have not only given me joy but have also enlightened me about todays art. That is my perspective and these are the experiences that I would like to share with the viewer of The deLIGHTed eye. Carlos Alberto Cruz, from his essay the deLIGHTed eye (International Center of Photography exhibition catalogue, 1985)
The collection initially took its form when the collector and Rose put together a wish list of elite photographers and gathered reproductions of ideal images by this influential group. Using this list as a guide, they acquired extraordinary photographic masterpieces, their first purchase being a unique photogram by László Moholy-Nagy from 1925 (estimate: $200,000-300,000). Additional highlights include prints by Eugène Atget, Constantin Brancusi, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Man Ray, Christian Schad, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston.
Nude, 1925, palladium print (estimate: $400,000-600,000), is one of Edward Weston's finest and most important nudes, yet very little-known. A very rare print, it was probably only published once on the November 1980 cover of an auction catalogue for a New York Photographs sale. The sitter is Miriam Lerner, a young Los Angeles socialite, with whom Weston began a passionate affair just two weeks after he arrived in California after leaving Tina Modotti in Mexico.
Bricks, c. 1922, gelatin silver print (estimate: $200,000-300,000), is one of a highly-prized series that the artist made of the view from his apartment window on West 86th Street in New York. It is a rare example of Steichen working within the Modernist idiom, where his viewpoint screened out as many extraneous details as possible, leaving the viewer to focus on the strong vertical shaft between the two walls and the pattern of bricks. The photograph owes a debt to Alfred Stieglitz's From My Window series done at `291'.
Alfred Stieglitz was the single most influential figure in the development of early 20th century American photography. He guided the remarkable transition from Pictorialism to Modernism and made New York City an important center for both. From the Back Window - "291"- N.Y., Summer 1914, gelatin silver print (estimate: $200,000-300,000), is an important example of how Stieglitz's style changed in a four-year period that included the 1913 Armory Show, and his subsequent departure from Pictorialism. From the Back Window can be regarded as a transitional work an incorporation of the influences from the Armory Show evident in Steiglitzs new work. His series of photographs from 291 are among his most prized works, each a formal and objective study in delineating shapes and expressing structure.
Alvin Langdon Coburn
Alvin Langdon Coburn is represented by a Vortograph titled The Eagle, 1917, gelatin silver print (estimate: $200,000-300,000), which was originally part of a larger group in the collection of George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. Coburns career as a Vorticist photographer began in London in 1917 and lasted for only about a month. Anxious to disprove the common notion that the camera could not be truly abstract, he made 18 Vortographs which are now prized for their rarity, their power and the fact that they take abstraction just about as far as it can go in photography. The resulting images, exhibited at the Camera Club in London, prompted the Vorticist painter Ezra Pound to proclaim in his introduction for the exhibition catalogue that `the camera is freed from reality.
Francis Bruguière was of America's most innovative photographers. His cut-paper experiments compare in importance with Alvin Langdon Coburn's more famous Vortographs as pioneering examples of pure photographic abstractions. Experiment from The Way, c. 1925, gelatin silver print (estimate: $100,000-150,000) was taken by Bruguière in New York during the last year he worked on his first experimental film, The Way. The image is powerful, dramatic and macabre, with five overlapping views of the sitter's face wearing a frenzied expression and filling the frame.
Two Sculptures: Le Nouveau Né II, 1920 and LEnfant Dormant, 1906, gelatin silver print (estimate: $70,000-90,000), was one of a group of studies discovered in Paris in the late 1970s. One of the finest and most complex examples from the artist's large body of photographs, the print is in an unusually large format. The photograph is an exquisite document of conception and purpose, not simply a record of completed work.
This print of Texture and Shadow, palladium print (estimate: $200,000-300,000), is the only one in private hands. The only other known print is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Neither print was titled by Modotti, but her close friend, the journalist Carleton Beals, used this title when publishing the image in 1929. Dated between 1924 and 1926, the present image is the purest of Modotti's abstractions, a stunning juxtaposition of darkness, light and material.
Francis Picabia, Grande Vitesse, 1924, gelatin silver print (estimate: $100,000-150,000), depicts the painter Francis Picabia and brilliantly captures the excitement that he felt when driving fast in what is probably his favorite Mercer. Picabia liked to have his friend Man Ray photograph him in extravagant cars. The image was published in La Révolution Surréaliste in 1925.