Dorothea Lange - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Dorothea Lange’s The Road West, New Mexico, shows the seemingly infinite highway traveled by so many Americans during the 1930s, when environmental and economic conditions drove them from the Southern and Plains states in search of a better life in California. Farmers, field workers, and laborers made up a mass migration across the continent, and New Mexico was one of the main thoroughfares through which they traveled. This image appears in Lange’s 1939 book An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion, coauthored with her husband Paul Taylor, and serves as a thematic center within its sequence of images. Confronting this seemingly endless stretch of blacktop was an experience shared by millions of Americans in search of greener pastures. Upon arriving in California, many found the conditions just as harsh as those they had left, and prosperity just as unattainable, and headed back in the opposite direction. This is borne out by the quotes Lange and Taylor chose to accompany this photograph in the book: 'They keep the road hot a goin' and a comin'' and 'They’ve got roamin’ in their head.' The Road West, New Mexico, serves as a symbol of the eternal search for a better life at the core of the American experience.


    The Road West, illustrated in An American Exodus, 1939 

    This photograph attained even greater visibility in subsequent editions of An American Exodus, bookending the sequence as the first and last illustrations, and even appearing on the cover of a later version. Lifetime prints of this image, in the large format offered here, are rare.

    • Provenance

      James Danziger Gallery, New York, 1998

    • Literature

      James Danziger Gallery and Stephen Daiter Gallery, The American Century: Observations and Metaphors [Part Two: 1936-1967], p. 13 (this print)
      Lange and Taylor, An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion, p. 65 (variant)
      The Museum of Modern Art, Dorothea Lange, p. 53
      Aperture, Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime, p. 113
      Edwynn Houk Gallery, Dorothea Lange: Eloquent Witness, p. 34
      Davis, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, p. 37 (variant)
      Heyman, Szarkowski, and Phillips, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs, pl. 12 (variant)
      Borhan, Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer, p. 151
      Keller, In Focus: Dorothea Lange, Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum, p. 42, pl. 18
      Bruce Silverstein Photography, Topographics: Photographs from 1844 to the Present, pl. 32
      Carroll, Photographers on Photography, p. 9


The Road West, New Mexico

Gelatin silver print, printed circa 1959.
10 3/8 x 13 3/8 in. (26.4 x 34 cm)
'Photograph by Dorothea Lange, 1163 Euclid Avenue, Berkeley, California' stamp on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $50,800

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023