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  • Provenance

    Christie’s, London, 6 May 1993, lot 169
    The Collection of Swiss film director Thomas Koerfer
    Sotheby's, New York, 30 September 2014, lot 127
    Private Collection, New York

  • Literature

    Alexander Rodchenko, Pantheon Books, 1986, pl. 38
    A. Lavrentiev, Alexander Rodchenko, Photography 1924-1954, Könemann, 1995, pp. 150-151
    M. Dabrowski, L. Dickerman, P. Galassi, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Museum of Modern Art, 1998, pl. 247
    M. Karabelnik, Stripped Bare: The Body Revealed in Contemporary Art: Works from the Thomas Koerfer Collection, Merrell, 2004, p. 168
    Alexander Rodchenko: Photography is an Art, Interros, 2006, p. 96
    A. Lavrentiev, Rodtchenko photographe: La révolution dans l'oeil, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris/ Éditions Parenthèses, 2007, p. 104
    Alexander Rodchenko: Revolution in Photography, Multimedia Complex of Actual Arts, Moscow House of Photography Museum/ Hayward Gallery, London, 2008, p. 84
    Rodchenko, Steidl; Pace/MacGill Gallery, 2011, cover

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘I want to take some quite incredible photos that have never been taken before, of life itself, absolutely real, photographs which are simple and complex at the same time, which will amaze and overwhelm people… then it will be worthwhile working and fighting for Photography as an art’
    Alexander Rodchenko

    From 1924 until the end of his life Rodchenko, or Rodcha as he preferred to be known, remained fascinated with the medium of photography and was inseparable from his Leica camera. He was attracted to photography’s wide scope and possibilities, which inspired him to build his own dark room for performing his ‘magic’ – conjuring faces of his close collaborative circle, visions of his family and the surrounding streets of Moscow.

    Rodchenko’s images are instantly identifiable for their contrasts of perspective and graphic use of light and form. He discovered that he could capture unprecedented moments of movement while representing viewpoints that were not possible via other mediums. Rodchenko believed in the positive transfiguration of the world and mankind through photography, the newest medium. Alongside other masters of the day, he combined printing techniques, merged negatives, employed optical distortions and layered photograms to create a visual landscape of the times.

    The large exhibition size print in the current lot entitled Steps, 1929, embodies Rodchenko’s manifesto. A classic example of a new way of seeing, it is shot employing his choice of a more interesting vantage point. Rigorously modernistic, the image is visually compelling – rhythmic lines glide elegantly at an angle while perfectly complementing the moving silhouette of the Madonna-like mother and baby. It was taken at the steps of Moscow’s 19th Century Orthodox Church of the Holy Saviour which was knocked down in 1931 to make way for the construction of the Palace of the Soviets, which unfortunately failed to be realised.

    In 1929, the Russian socio-political and literary magazine Dayosh frst published this image together with a shot of the wall of Novodevichy Convent, with the shared title “A Summers Day”. An important image to the artist himself, it was shown as part of the 1935 Exhibition of the Work of the Masters of Soviet Photography in Moscow and is said to have bought him some needed favour from Stalin. At the time, his ideals, like those of many other artists, clashed with the increasingly authoritarian government.

    During his lifetime, Rodchenko was heavily criticised for being too formalist in his art. Today, not only is Rodchenko lauded as a visionary but also for his iconic images, which continue to provide artistic stimulation.

67

Steps

1929
Large-format gelatin silver print.
38.8 x 56.8 cm (15 1/4 x 22 3/8 in.)
Credited, titled in Russian, dated by Varvara Rodchenko, the artist's daughter, in pencil and 'Rodchenko/Stepanova' collection stamp on the verso.

Estimate
£140,000 - 180,000 

Contact Specialist
Lou Proud
Head of Photographs
London
+ 44 207 318 4018

Photographs

London Auction 6 November 2015 2pm