Alma Lavenson - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • The photograph offered here has a distinguished exhibition history, having been hung in no fewer than four shows during Lavenon’s lifetime. It bears an exhibition label from the 1941 Sixteenth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists shown at the San Francisco Museum of Art (later the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art).  


    During the 1920s and 1930s, the San Francisco Bay Area photographer Alma Lavenson distinguished herself from other West Coast modernists Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham, by focusing her camera not on the natural world, but primarily on architectural and industrial subjects. Unlike East Coast photographers Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand, and Margaret Bourke-White, it was not Lavenson’s intent to glorify industrial forms as achievements of machine-age technology but rather, through her strong compositions, to reveal the inherent structural forms and patterns created by light and shadow.  


    In 1932, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, Lavenson’s photographs were included with those by Adams, Weston, Cunningham and others, in the inaugural exhibition of Group f.64 – the loose association of West Coast photographers united in promoting a ‘straight’ approach to photography in direct response to the excesses of Pictorialism. 


    The following year, Lavenson had solo exhibitions at both the de Young Museum and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts (now the Brooklyn Museum). Solo exhibitions at the Oakland Museum and at the San Francisco Museum of (Modern) Art followed in 1942, 1948, and 1960. Her photograph, San Ildefonso Indians (1941), was included in Edward Steichen’s seminal international 1955 exhibition and publication, The Family of Man.  


    During the last forty years, Alma Lavenson’s photographs from the 1920s and 1930s have been included in numerous significant museum exhibitions and accompanying publications focused on Modernism, Precisionism, and on the history of women photographers; as well as museum exhibitions celebrating important private collections of photography. Her photographs are in the following institutions collections: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; New Orleans Museum of Art; J. Paul Getty Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Norton Museum, West Palm Beach, Florida, among others.  





    • Provenance

      Collection of the photographer
      By descent to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Sixteenth Annua Exhibition, San Francisco Society of Women Artists, San Francisco Museum of Art, 28 October - 16 November 1941
      Alma Lavenson, San Francisco Museum of Art, June 1942
      [Group exhibition], Art Gallery, Mills College, Oakland, California, November -December 1944
      Alma Lavenson Photographs, Baltimore Museum of Art, 8 March - 24 April 1988

    • Literature

      Ehrens, Alma Lavenson: Photographs, p. 59


Entrance to Church at Rancho de Taos

Gelatin silver print.
8 7/8 x 7 in. (22.5 x 17.8 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated in pencil on the mount; additionally titled and dated in ink and pencil on the '58 Wildwood Gardens, Piedmont, California' credit label, and further signed, titled and inscribed in ink, on a San Francisco Society of Woman Artists exhibition label, both on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 25,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023