Diane Arbus - Innovators of Photography: A Private East Coast Collection New York Thursday, October 8, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Christie's, New York, 23 April 1996, lot 502

  • Literature

    Aperture, Diane Arbus, n.p.
    Aperture, Diane Arbus: Magazine Work, pp. 106-107
    Arbus, Sussman, Phillips, Selkirk and Rosenheim, Diane Arbus: Revelations, p. 329
    Dexter and Weski, Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph, p. 239
    Henry Art Gallery, After Art: Rethinking 150 Years of Photography, p. 64
    Sunday Times Magazine (London), 10 November 1968

  • Catalogue Essay

    Diane Arbus’ A family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y. was taken a year after the 1967 New Documents exhibition, which was comprised of ninety works by Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, and Diane Arbus, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. In explaining the commonality among Arbus and her contemporaries, John Szarkowski said “In the past decade a new generation of photographers has redirected the technique and aesthetic of documentary photography to more personal ends. Their aim has been not to reform life but to know it, not to persuade but to understand.” Arbus, motivated by her own somewhat sheltered Manhattan upbringing focused her photography around her desire to escape, explore, and understand worlds and lives outside her own. Guided by her mentor Lisette Model, she was able to delve into capturing the "freakishness of normalcy and the normalcy of freakishness" as A.D. Coleman described later in the Village Voice.

    In the convergence between assignments for Esquire, The London Times and Harper’s Bazaar, and a return to her Family Album, the working title for a book she had envisioned, A family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y., 1968 and A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C., were taken. These two photographs were published on facing pages in an article American Families for an issue of the London Sunday Times Magazine in November of 1968. Her enthrallment with the Tarnopol family, featured in this upper-middle class suburban scene, was immediate as she described in a letter about meeting Mrs. Tarnopol. “She is about 35 with terribly blonde hair and enormously eyelashed and booted and probably married to a dress manufacturer or restaurateur and I said I wanted to photograph her with husband and children… They are a fascinating family. I think all families are creepy in a way.”

    Contact sheets from the day this picture was taken show the three Tarnopol children with their parents posing for the camera. Arbus then reconstructs the simple summer scene with Mr. and Mrs. Tarnopol placed in perfectly positioned lounge chairs with only their son, Paul, his back to the camera, playing by the pool. She dismantles the stereotypical family portrait by selecting this incomplete family and fully disengaged moment, as if the subjects had forgotten the presence of Arbus and her lens. Framed with her signature square Rolleiflex camera format, the direct sunlight heightens the contrast of the scene with the stark tree line in the background, providing a more austere and dramatic view of a seemingly ordinary afternoon. “I mean if you scrutinize reality closely enough, if in some way you really, really get to it, it becomes fantastic... and you sometimes see that very clearly in a photograph. Something is ironic in the world and it has to do with the fact that what you intend never comes out like you intended it.” She employs the same acute ability to unveil and disarm the well-coiffed Tarnopol family as she did with a Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, and all of the subjects she documented in her oeuvre.

    This lifetime print, was acquired in 1996, and the last time a lifetime print of this image was at auction was in 2008. The importance of this picture is compounded by Arbus' inclusion of it in her 1969 portfolio, A Box of Ten Photographs: ten images that she felt best represented her accomplishments as a photographer.

    Other prints of this image are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Akron Art Museum, Ohio.

  • 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. 

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A family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y.

Gelatin silver print, printed 1968-1971.
15 x 14 7/8 in. (38.1 x 37.8 cm)
Stamped 'a diane arbus print', signed by Doon Arbus, Executor, in ink, copyright credit and reproduction limitation stamps on the verso. Accompanied by a signed letter of authenticity from the Estate of Diane Arbus.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $305,000

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Innovators of Photography: A Private East Coast Collection

New York Auction 8 October 2015