Robert Frank - Important Photographs from the Collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana New York Tuesday, April 2, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Christie's East New York, 9 June 1999, lot 312
    Robert Klein Gallery, Boston

  • Exhibited

    Presumed Innocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA, 2 February - 27 April 2008

  • Literature

    Bulfinch Press, On the Art of Fixing A Shadow: 150 Years of Photography, p. 357
    deCordova, Presumed Innocence, pl. 65
    Dexter and Weski, Cruel and Tender: The Real in the 20th Century Photograph, p. 109
    Grove Press, The Americans, pl. 18
    High Museum of Art, Chorus of Light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection, p. 89
    National Gallery of Art, Washington/Steidl, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, pp. 6-7, 232, 466, contact sheet 18/19
    National Gallery Of Art, Washington, Robert Frank/Moving Out, pp. 172 (contact sheet) and 196
    Papageorge, Walker Evans and Robert Frank, An Essay on Influence, p. 41
    Scalo, The Americans, cover and p. 45
    The Museum of Modern Art, Walker Evans & Company, pl. 137

  • Catalogue Essay

    As one of the leading visionaries of midcentury American photography, Robert Frank has created an indelible body of work, rich in insight and poignant in foresight. His path to success, however, was not rooted in a privileged background or an academic affiliation, but rather an irrevocable determination to explore and a courageous commitment to expose the socio-cultural pockets in American society that had been often left unspoken, unheard and unseen in mainstream media.

    After leaving his native Switzerland in 1947, Frank embarked on tour across multiple continents, driven by an insatiable curiosity. At the end of his travels, Frank chose to settle in New York in a concentrated effort to establish himself as a photographer. His wish was to reveal “the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere,” as he expressed in his application to the Guggenheim Fellowship, which he was granted in 1955. Over a period of 9 months, 30 states, 767 rolls of film and 10,000 miles, Frank carefully scoured the United States in search of capturing with his lens the parade of characters, hierarchies and imbalances that he believed conveyed a far more accurate if polemical view of the great American social landscape. The result was Frank’s most iconic photographic compilation, The Americans, a series of 82 images whose relevance and impact has not faded with time. Combined with the present lot, Contact Sheet from the Americans (lot 33), showcases some of the top images of the time.

    At the time Frank began his endeavor, America was steeped in McCarthyism, a practice that promoted the pointing of baseless accusations against civilians suspected of subversion or treason. Frank, himself a New York-based Jewish immigrant of simple means, became victim of the practice, when, on November 7, 1955, he was arrested, questioned, threatened, humiliated, jailed and branded “criminal” in McGehee, Arkansas. Despite the misfortune, it was an experience that ultimately intensified and shaped his understanding of the underlying social bias. Indeed, of the incident Frank has noted that it served to heighten his “compassion for the people on the street,” one that he unassumingly but lucidly translated into his compilation The Americans, and particularly, Trolley, New Orleans, taken a mere few days thereafter.

    Upon his arrival in New Orleans, Frank, fascinated by the vivacious hustle-and bustle of the city, observed an ongoing parade. Compelled by nothing but a gut feeling, Frank suddenly turned his back on the staged spectacle only to behold and capture the image of a trolley passing through the French Quarter and inadvertently presenting a cross-sectional slice of the racial demographic hierarchy. The grid proffered by the trolley’s structure neatly if eerily delineated the segregation enforcement of the era, with five windows showcasing the breakdown in race, gender and age: white adult male, white adult female, white children, African-American adult male and African-American adult female. With the exception of the latter, all appear to make direct eye-contact with the photographer, and consequently, with the viewers, mustering an accordingly wide array of reactions, from stern confrontation to melancholic pleading.

    Trolley, New Orleans, far more than a portrait of New Orleans or even the Deep South for that matter, but one of an era typified by paranoia and calamitous inequality. The poignancy of the image is intensified by its chronological juncture with the Montgomery Bus Boycott less than a month later and the subsequent sparking of the Civil Rights Movement. For Frank to have captured the racial breakdown so succinctly, moments before the structure that held it together collapsed, attests to the balance of foresight and insight that Frank employed throughout his groundbreaking oeuvre.

  • Artist Biography

    Robert Frank

    Swiss • 1924

    As one of the leading visionaries of mid-century American photography, Robert Frank has created an indelible body of work, rich in insight and poignant in foresight. In his famed series The Americans, Frank travelled the United States, capturing the parade of characters, hierarchies and imbalances that conveyed his view of the great American social landscape.

    Frank broke the mold of what was considered successful documentary photography with his "snapshot aesthetic." It is Frank's portrayal of the United States through grit and grain that once brought his work to the apex of criticism, but has now come to define the art of documentary photography.

    View More Works



Trolley, New Orleans

Gelatin silver print, printed later.
12 1/8 x 19 in. (30.8 x 48.3 cm)
Signed, titled 'New Orleans' and dated in ink in the margin.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $242,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
+ 1 212 940 1245

Important Photographs from the Collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana

2 & 3 April 2013
New York