Charles Clifford - Photographs New York Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Valladolid and Sevilla: The Alcazar, Christie's, London, 1994
    Merida and Granada: The Alhambra, Galeria Victor Saavedra, Barcelona
    Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, 1995-2003

  • Exhibited

    Still Looking: Peter McLeavey and the Last Photograph, Adam Art Gallery / Te Pātaka Toi, Wellington, New Zealand, October - December 2018 (all prints)

  • Literature

    Batchen and Sullivan, Still Looking: Peter McLeavey and the Last Photograph, p. 31 (Sevilla: The Alcazar, this print)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Titles as follows: Valladolid; Merida: Column composed of three Roman altars; Sevilla: The Alcazar; and Granada: The Alhambra, ​A plinth in the palace of Charles V.

    The British born Charles Clifford began photographing in Spain in 1858, first working with paper negatives and then graduating to glass-plate collodion negatives which allowed him to better capture the intricacies of his architectural subjects. Working under the brilliant Spanish sunlight, Clifford captured in his photographs an astonishing array of detail in the highlights while maintaining depth and delineation in the shadows. Such was the quality of this images that he became the official photographer of Queen Isabella, and he blindstamped this affiliation on the mounts of his photographs. Peter McLeavey purchased his Charles Clifford photographs from Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. Fraenkel’s 1984 exhibition Photography in Spain in the Nineteenth Century exposed Clifford’s work to the American public, along with that of other artists working in Spain at the same time. The printed catalogue for that exhibition presented the most concise and informative account of Clifford’s life to-date.

    The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this auction as lots 139 through 156 all come from the collection of Peter McLeavey (1936-2015), the pioneering New Zealand gallerist who nearly single-handedly created the art market in that country. In 1966, McLeavey began exhibiting art in the bedroom of his flat in Wellington. Among his countrymen were artists whose work he believed needed to be seen, work that was on par with – yet fundamentally different from – that being created in New York, London, or Paris. He was driven, he said, by a desire to 'nurture the culture, feed the culture, expose the culture to people that didn’t know about it.' He became a vocal advocate for artists such as Toss Woolaston and Colin McCahon, among many others, creating a market for their paintings while at the same time maintaining his job at an insurance company.

    His dedication to supporting these artists is borne out by the precarious early finances of the gallery. In a 2009 interview he recounted, with some amusement, 'The first year I worked, every dollar I earned cost me four dollars to get it. The second year, every dollar I earned cost me three; the third year, every dollar earned cost me two dollars to get it.' In the face of this consistent, if slow, march toward profitability, McLeavey found a gallery space on Cuba Street in 1968, quit his insurance job, and became a full-time art dealer. McLeavey continued to operate out of his modest Cuba Street gallery for 40 years, ultimately becoming 'the most important commercial gallerist New Zealand has ever had, effectively the pre-eminent publisher of modern New Zealand art in the past 50 years,' according to Jeremy Diggle, Professor of Fine Arts, at Massey University.

    In the 1970s, McLeavey began to build a collection of photographs. He was attracted to photography, in one sense, because it did not conflict with the work he sold in his gallery and offered an artistic experience wholly apart from his stock-in-trade. More importantly, McLeavey found he had a deep affinity for photography, and his acquisitions often resonated with memories of his childhood, during which his father’s job as a railway worker required frequent moves. His first serious purchase was Robert Frank’s View from Hotel Window – Butte, Montana, which reminded him, he said, of looking out over the rooftops of whatever small New Zealand town would be his family’s new temporary home. McLeavey’s purchases were intensely personal, and often only concluded after much correspondence with dealers half a world away. From this distance McLeavey forged fruitful relationships with Fraenkel Gallery, Edwynn Houk, and Pace/MacGill, among others. McLeavey’s collection was exhibited posthumously in the 2018 exhibition, Still Looking: Peter McLeavey and the Last Photograph at Adam Art Gallery / Te Pātaka Toi in Wellington, curated by Geoffrey Batchen and Deidre Sullivan and accompanied by a printed catalogue.

    McLeavey is the subject of the award-winning 2013 biography Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer by Jull Trevelyan. A full-length 2009 documentary on McLeavey, The Man in the Hat, was released in 2009. The documentary includes an interview with McLeavey at his home in which he speaks with eloquence and passion about the photographs he has collected, all of which hang behind him: 'Every photograph resonates at the deepest level within me. They’ve all been very carefully selected. They are very powerful things for me. I realized I was making a portrait of the self. That each photograph spoke to me at the deepest level of my being, about some aspect of my life, some emotional state I’d been in. They represent my parents, my childhood, places I’d been to . . . Photographs do something to me that no painting can do . . . The photograph has something very unique, and it takes me to a country, to a land, to a space within the soul where no painting can take me.'

Property from the Collection of Peter McLeavey


Selected Images of Spain

Four albumen prints.
Various sizes from 11 x 15 5/8 in. (27.9 x 39.7 cm) to 17 x 12 3/4 in. (43.2 x 32.4 cm) or the reverse.
Each with 'C. Clifford, Photo of H. M.' blindstamp and two titled and dated in an unidentified hand in ink on the mount.

$10,000 - 15,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department
+1 212 940 1225


Vanessa Hallett
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+1 212 940 1243


New York Auction 7 October 2021