Lee Miller and other photographers - A Constant Pursuit: Photographs from the Collection of Ed Cohen & Victoria Shaw New York Thursday, October 4, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Estate of Joseph Cornell
    By descent
    Christie’s, New York, 13 October 2000, lot 219

  • Literature

    Calvocoressi, Lee Miller: Portraits from a Life, n.p.
    MoMA, Joseph Cornell, pp. 14 and 90
    Hartigan, Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination, p. 2 (variant), and pp. 67 and 167
    Royal Academy of Arts, Joseph Cornel: Wanderlust, p. 18 (variant)
    Waldman, Joseph Cornell, pp. 15 and 20 (variant)

  • Catalogue Essay

    This remarkable group includes Lee Miller’s iconic portrait of American Surrealist Joseph Cornell, another of him by Eric Pollitzer (1925-2005), and images of Cornell’s artwork by Soichi Sunami (1885-1971), James Ogle (dates unknown), and others. The photographs are unified by the accompanying manuscript, a surreal treatise on Cornell by pioneering New York gallerist Julien Levy. Each photograph bears a caption pulled from Levy’s text.

    In 1932, Lee Miller parted with her lover and mentor Man Ray and left Paris for New York City where she established her own photography studio on 48th street. A former model, Miller had contacts in the photography world who helped jumpstart her new career, and she was soon busy with fashion and portrait work. Miller, who had been at the center of the Surrealist scene in Paris, maintained close ties with the New York art world, specifically to Levy. Levy’s gallery was one of the few venues for photography at the time, and he included Miller’s work in several exhibitions. It was Levy who staged the first exhibition of Surrealist art in American in 1932, a show that debuted the eccentric self-taught artist Joseph Cornell. Levy not only discovered Cornell, but was in many ways an early collaborator, supplying him with imagery for his collages and collaged objects.

    Levy introduced Miller to Cornell, and she took a series of portraits of him with one of his constructions, a miniature sailboat topped by a butterfly and a mane of hair. Miller’s image of the reclusive young artist fuses him with his work, so it is difficult to see the dividing line between the artist and his art. Cornell returned the favor by creating a collaged double portrait of Miller surrounded by gold leaf.


Selected Images of Joseph Cornell and his Work

Six gelatin silver prints.
Varying dimensions from 4 3/8 x 6 1/8 in. (11.1 x 15.6 cm) to 9 5/8 x 7 3/8 in. (24.4 x 18.7 cm) or the reverse
One with Lee Miller credit stamp, one with Soichi Sunami and Museum of Modern Art copyright limitation stamps, three titled in pencil in an unidentified hand on the verso; each with affixed typed caption labels. Accompanied by a typed manuscript entitled Joseph Cornell: or Twelve Needles Dancing on the Point of an Angel signed by Julien Levy in pencil.

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $56,250

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Caroline Deck
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Vanessa Hallett
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A Constant Pursuit: Photographs from the Collection of Ed Cohen & Victoria Shaw

New York Auction 4 October 2018