Diane Arbus - Photographs New York Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Phillips

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  • This photograph comes from the collection of curator, teacher, and photographic historian Peter C. Bunnell. Bunnell was one of the earliest writers to develop a nuanced and empathetic critical assessment of Diane Arbus’s work that extended past a superficial reading of her photographs. He did not hesitate to place her with the pantheon of great photographers and, as early as 1973, to gauge the impact of her influence. In an article for the Print Collector’s Newsletter he wrote, ‘Diane Arbus was a photographer of great originality and even greater purity, who steadfastly refused to make any concessions whatsoever to her public. Clearly, she must be considered among the two or three major photographers of the last decade, and it may be said that the character of photography has been changed by her photographs.’


    Since its making in 1966, Diane Arbus’s Identical twins, Roselle, N. J., has become the image most closely associated with her large body of work. The photograph was chosen as the cover illustration for what was, for many years, Arbus’s only retrospective monograph: Diane Arbus, published by Aperture in 1972. Embodying a culmination of the strongest themes in her work – her fascinations with children, aberrance, and identity, among them – this signature image has never lost its power to engage. Bunnell’s print of Identical twins, Roselle, N.J., is titled and dated by the photographer. The purposely diffuse edges of the image are a hallmark of Arbus’s mature printing style in which she employed a filed-out negative carrier while making prints in the darkroom.


    The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this auction as lots 203 through 240 comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. All of the sale’s 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.


    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

      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      Arbus, Sussman, Phillips, Selkirk and Rosenheim, Diane Arbus: Revelations, pp. 265, 270-271, contact sheet p. 182
      Aperture, Diane Arbus, cover, n.p.
      Aperture, Photography Past Forward: Aperture at 50, p. 90
      Greenough et al, On the Art of Fixing a Shadow: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Photography, p. 436, pl. 359
      High Museum of Art, Chorus of Light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection, p. 88
      Newhall, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Date, p. 290
      Oxford History of Art, The Photograph, pl. 7
      'Five Photographs by Diane Arbus,' Artforum, May 1971, p. 69

    • Artist Biography

      Diane Arbus

      American • 1923 - 1971

      Transgressing traditional boundaries, Diane Arbus is known for her highly desirable, groundbreaking portraiture taken primarily in the American Northeast during the late 1950s and 1960s. Famous for establishing strong personal relationships with her subjects, Arbus' evocative images capture them in varied levels of intimacy. Whether in their living rooms or on the street, their surreal beauty transcends the common distance found in documentary photography.

      Taken as a whole, Arbus' oeuvre presents the great diversity of American society — nudists, twins, babies, beauty queens and giants — while each distinct image brings the viewer into contact with an exceptional individual brought to light through Arbus' undeniable genius. 

      View More Works

A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 2


Identical twins, Roselle, N.J.

Gelatin silver print, printed between 1969 and 1971.
10 x 10 1/4 in. (25.4 x 26 cm)
Titled and dated by the artist in pencil, annotated 'Illustration No. 6' in an unknown hand in ink, stamped 'A Diane Arbus print,' signed, annotated by Doon Arbus, Executor, in ink, estate copyright credit and reproduction limitation stamps on the verso. Accompanied by a letter of authentication from the Estate of Diane Arbus.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $215,900

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 4 April 2023