Imogen Cunningham - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips

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  • The print on offer is inscribed to ‘Dr Leo Eloesser’ - a distinguished San Francisco based thoracic surgeon, who pioneered rural and wartime healthcare advances. The physician, who himself was a violinist and often held Wednesday evening quartets in his home, befriended many artists, including Imogen Cunningham. Eloesser’s biographer, Harris B. Shumacker, writes, ‘he was a friend of most of the San Francisco Bay area artists . . . and was usually their doctor as well.’ As a trade for the free medical services, artists would often gift Eloesser a work or even make a fresco in his office.


    Among his circle were Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, the sculptor Ralph Stackpole, and the painters Antonio Sotomayor and Gottardo Piazzoni. Having already connected with Rivera in Mexico, Eloesser subsequently met and treated Kahlo in 1930 in San Francisco. She would remain a friend until her death. Kahlo made several works for him; the most notable are two paintings donated to the University of California, San Francisco: Portrait of Dr. Leo Eloesser, 1931 and Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Leo Eloesser, 1940.


    Although there is not much information on Eloesser’s relationship to Imogen Cunningham, it is not surprising that they crossed paths as the photographer spent most of her life in Northern California, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she taught and lectured widely. In 1975, Cunningham made a portrait of Eloesser.


    Imogen Cunningham, Dr Leo Eloesser, 1975
    • Provenance

      Collection of Dr. Leo Eloesser, prominent surgeon in San Francisco, friend and physician to Cunningham, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera

    • Literature

      Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: Flora, pl. 56
      Davis, An American Century of Photography, p. 211



Gelatin silver print.
9 3/8 x 7 3/8 in. (23.8 x 18.7 cm)
Signed in pencil on the mount; inscribed 'For Dr. Eloesser' in pencil and with typed title on the 'Imogen Cunningham, 4540 Harbor View, Oakland, California' label affixed to the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $24,130

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023