Edward Steichen - The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1 New York Monday, April 3, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Graphics International, Ltd., Washington, D.C.
    Collection of the Gilman Paper Company, New York
    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
    Sotheby's, New York, Important Photographs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Including Works from the Gilman Paper Company, 15 February 2006, lot 52

  • Literature

    Steichen, A Life in Photography, cover & pl. 72, variant croppings
    Johanna Steichen, Steichen's Legacy: Photographs, 1895-1973, pl. 231, variant cropping
    Photo Poche, Edward Steichen, pl. 26 variant cropping

  • Catalogue Essay

    The years directly following the First World War were a period of recuperation and artistic transition for Steichen. The painter and Pictorialist master had served in an airborne division of the U. S. Army and photographed the war-torn European landscape from above. The technical challenges involved in making a successful exposure from a juddering airplane had enforced upon the young photographer a different relationship with the medium. After the War, at his home in Voulangis, France, Steichen began to investigate what could be done aesthetically with a sharper focus and a straightforward printing style. These images were a marked departure from the Impressionism of his early photographs, and paved the way not only for his own future work, but for the general trend in serious photography in the years to come.

    In A Life in Photography, Steichen recounts his photographic experimentation during this time, work which dovetailed with his readings in science and philosophy and with his deep appreciation for nature. He wrote that he photographed “to try to understand nature’s discipline.” His investigations into the spiral form, which he regarded as central to all of life, led him to photograph a variety of organic objects that incorporated this structural pattern. The present photograph of a shell is perhaps his most successful image from the spiral series, and Steichen chose it as the cover illustration of his autobiographical Life in Photography.


The Spiral Shell

Gelatin silver print.
7 5/8 x 7 1/2 in. (19.4 x 19.1 cm)
Credit stamp, annotated 'Orig. print made by Edw. M. Steichen,' and numbered by Rolf Petersen, annotated 'France-1921 / Rarest' in an unidentified hand in pencil on the verso.

$80,000 - 120,000 

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The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1

New York 3 April 2017