August Sander - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Rago Arts, New Jersey, 21 November 2008, lot 1040

  • Literature

    Abrams, August Sander: People of the 20th Century, Volume II: The Skilled Tradesmen, back cover of slipcase and pl. II/8/19
    Aperture, August Sander, p. 51

  • Catalogue Essay

    “We have found there is an unconscious intuitive power to every image and a reasoned decisive thought behind every uncontrolled passion. For us, the great image is one that is able to touch a deep place of feeling inside, and, at the same time, elevate to a place where we are thinking about it too.”

    The forty-eight lots off­ered in Property from a Distinguished California Collection present a remarkable panoramic view of humanity. Lovingly collected since 1985, the works in the collection provide humble yet illuminating glimpses of the 20th-century through the eyes of the pioneering photographers who came to define the field. Drawn by the emotion, immediacy and social commentary of documentarian work, the collection is comprised of images that transcend fads and fanfare, focusing on works that
    would help viewers relate to one another and the world around them. By focusing on everyday men and women and children, Property from a Distinguished California Collection proudly parades the anonymous individuals whose lives were momentarily captured; their grace, nobility, and perhaps most notably,their approachable simplicity eternalized in the images off­ered herein.

    Two lifetime prints by Diane Arbus, Patriotic Young Man with a Flag, N.Y.C., 1967 (lot 9) and King and Queen of a senior citizens’ dance, N.Y.C., 1970 (lot 10) are among the crowning images in the collection. “A photograph is a secret about a secret,” Arbus once noted, “the more it tells you, the less you know.” Accordingly, both of Arbus’s images present largely hidden, alternative views of their respective fields—nationalism and pageantry—challenging the manicured aesthetic parameters that defined both fields at the time. The young man in the former image—his eyes clear and haunting, his smile crooked and tense—demands to share the platform with the more commercially sanctioned prototypes of the All-American male. His pin, “I’m Proud”, is as much a testament to his own personal pride as much as Arbus’s pride in having catapulted his image to the foreground of American consciousness. Likewise, the couple in the latter image is presented as endearing if antithetical representations of pageant winners, forcing viewers’ association past their normative schema.

    Arbus’s alternate vision is shared by another pillar of American photography, Robert Frank. In Covered Car—Long Beach, California, 1955-1956 (lot 6), Welsh Miners, Ben James, 1953 (lot 154), London, 1951 (lot 166), and From the bus, 1958 (lot 167), Frank guides his viewers across two sides of the Atlantic, framing unpremeditated sights and people. Even before Frank gained widespread acclaim and notoriety for his 1958 book The Americans, viewers were met with his hypersensitive salute to the unsung and unheard moments in life in the images of Welsh Miners, Ben James and London. While the former pays homage to the underlying majesty of a man whose blue-collar existence would have otherwise relegated him to the annals of anonymity, the latter presents a jarring juxtaposition—a running child on one side, an open car door of a hearse on the other—two dueling ends of human existence. Similarly ironic, in Covered Car— Long Beach, California, Frank presents an emblem of the booming American automotive industry but cloaked under heavy cloth that imbues the composition with a subdued and foreboding aura. And yet, in the image From the bus, Frank presents a scene of unexpected wonder and awe in a composition sweetly reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, reminding viewers of the everyday charm embedded in unexpected moments. Reflecting the tender spontaneity that unites the collection, Frank has noted that his photographs “are not planned or composed in advance, and I do not anticipate that the onlooker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind, something has been accomplished.”

    Viewers repeatedly encounter the reverence of everyday people in the collection. Irving Penn’s Rag and Bone Man (A), London, 1950 (lot 5), Sewer Cleaner, New York, 1951 (lot 164), and Three Rissani Women with Bread (Morocco), 1971 (lot 172), cleverly infuse their subjects—none of whom are identified by name—with a unique sense of individuality. A likewise gracious courtesy is extended across the collection: Dorothea Lange’s Funeral Cortege, End of an era in a small valley town, California, 1938 (lot 4), depicts a woman whose powerful, elegiac expression masterfully captures the plight of the Great Depression.

    Joel Peter Witkin devotes his unwavering attraction to the socially subversive and physically extraordinary in four works, Studio of the Painter, Courbet, Paris, 1990 (lot 174), Three Kinds of Women, Mexico City, 1992 (lot 175), Las Meninas, New Mexico, 1987 (lot 176),and Gods of Earth and Heaven, Los Angeles, 1988 (lot 177); and W. Eugene Smith’s four works in the collection, Three Generations of Welsh Miners, 1950 (lot 153), Dance of the Flaming Coke, Pittsburgh, 1955 (lot 156), Spanish Wake, 1951 (lot 157) and Maud Callen, Nurse Midwife, 1951, (lot 158), nod to such universal matters of ritual, family, care-giving and tribute-paying, all of which transcend the cultural and linguistic parameters belying each image.

    Property from a Distinguished California Collection is an evolutionary homage to the otherwise unknown individuals who were captured by some of the most revered photographers of the twentieth-century, begetting images whose searing poignancy reverberates decades past their creation.



Konditor (Pastry Chef), Cologne

Gelatin silver print, printed later by Gunther Sander, the artist's son.
16 1/2 x 12 in. (41.9 x 30.5 cm)
'Köln-Lindenthal' blindstamp on the recto.

$5,000 - 7,000 

Sold for $16,250

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


New York 30 September & 1 October 2013