Barbara Morgan - The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection New York Wednesday, January 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this online auction comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. All lots are sold with No Reserve and the proceeds will be distributed to six institutions with whom Bunnell was associated — Rochester Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Yale University, The George Eastman Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and Princeton University Art Museum — to establish endowments to support the study of photographic history. 


    In the press release for the 1972 Museum of Modern Art exhibition Barbara Morgan: Photographs, Bunnell asserts that, for Morgan, the photomontage represents imagination itself: ‘As opposed to straight photography in which the literal continuum of observation and reaction is maintained, the multiple image system of montage allows her to combine discontinuous thoughts, observations, and ideas into a visual metaphor. . . These pictures reflect an urban lifestyle which lends itself to this fractured, layered structuring — strata of people, place, mood and meaning.’ 


    Bunnell began his long career in photography as a student of Minor White’s at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s and was recruited by White to work on the seminal periodical of artistic photography, Aperture. He joined the staff of The Museum of Modern Art in 1966 as a collection cataloguer, becoming Associate Curator and then Curator of Photography. At MoMA he curated the noteworthy exhibitions Photography as Printmaking (1968), Photography into Sculpture (1970), and the first retrospective of the work of Clarence H. White (1971). In 1972, he was hired as the inaugural David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University.  


    Bunnell served as Director of the Princeton University Art Museum from 1973 to 1978, and as Acting Director from 1998 to 2000, while also being the Museum’s Curator of Photography throughout the entirety of his tenure. Bunnell built a broad-ranging collection of photographs at the Museum, the firsthand examination of which became a central element of the student experience in his classes and seminars. Bunnell also assembled a personal collection of photography over the course of his long career that reflects his vast and deep understanding of the medium. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, Bunnell’s collection is a deeply personal one, put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography. 

    • Provenance

      Gift of the artist
      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      Barbara Morgan: Aperture Masters of Photography, p. 65 (Fossil in Formation), p. 73 (Spring on Madison Square)

    • Catalogue Essay

      The photographs included in this lot are as follows:

      Fossil in Formation, 1965
      Spring on Madison Square, 1938

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection


Lot offered with No Reserve

Selected Photomontages

1938, 1965
Two gelatin silver prints, printed 1970s.
10 x 13 1/2 in. (25.4 x 34.3 cm) and 10 1/8 x 12 1/4 in. (25.7 x 31.1 cm)
Each signed, titled, and dated in pencil on the mount; each additionally signed, titled, dated, initialed, and inscribed in ink with a copyright credit reproduction stamp on the reverse of the mounts.

Full Cataloguing

$1,000 - 1,500 

Sold for $1,890

Contact Specialist

Christopher Mahoney

Senior International Specialist


Vanessa Hallett

Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection

Online Auction 25 January - 1 February 2023