Margaret Bourke-White - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 14, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Collection of Arthur Gray, Cleveland, Ohio
    Rachel Davis Fine Arts, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 1994
    André Emmerich Gallery, New York
    Keith De Lellis Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    The Arthur Gray Collection, Rachel Davis Fine Arts, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 23 April – 20 May 1994

  • Literature

    Rachel Davis Fine Arts, The Arthur Gray Collection, pl. 95

  • Catalogue Essay

    The image offered here, with its bold abstraction of structure and shadow, demonstrates Bourke-White’s ability to incorporate avant-garde compositional ideas into her commercial and editorial work.

    This photograph comes originally from the collection of artist, photographer, and poet Arthur Smith Gray (1884-1976). Based in Cleveland, Gray was a principal figure in the marketing department of Standard Oil of Ohio from 1929 to 1949, where he redesigned nearly every public-facing aspect of the company, creating a consistent and recognizable brand. It is believed that Gray shared darkroom space with Bourke-White during her formative years in Cleveland in the late 1920s. Bourke-White also produced photographs for Standard Oil during Gray’s tenure. The two remained in contact after Bourke-White moved to New York City.

    Although the circumstances behind Gray’s poem From Orchids to Steel are unknown, it seems to provide an apt description of Bourke-White’s approach to photographing industry:

    Slip of a woman that drives you
    to picture steel and steam

    What is there in your softness that
    craves such hardness and heat

    Your will in hand (steel)
    Your feelings intense (heat)

    Does your body thrill as your consciousness
    receives the impact of plunging
    masses of steel; surging
    volumes of steam, and roaring
    blinding fires

    Must your love be of such mettle
    (or come of such mettle)


Study for Birdsall & Ward Nut and Bolt Company

circa 1929
Gelatin silver print.
12 1/4 x 9 in. (31.1 x 22.9 cm)
André Emmerich and Keith De Lellis Gallery labels on the reverse of the frame.

$8,000 - 12,000 

Sold for $10,000

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Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas



New York Auction 14 October 2020