Margaret Bourke-White - 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

    Collection of Russian Embassy personnel
    Christie's, London, Photographs and Photographically Illustrated Books, 12 May 1994, lot 186

  • Catalogue Essay

    An additional print of this image is in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

    Margaret Bourke-White’s career as a photojournalist was well-established when she saw the Machine Age exposition in New York in the spring of 1927. The exposition was organized by Jane Heap, who announced that “the machine is the religious expression of today.” The cross-currents of Modernism, machine aesthetic, and a new emphasis on industrial design dovetailed with Bourke-White’s talents as a photographer and put her in high demand. This photograph exemplifies the bold cutting-edge aesthetic that distinguished Bourke-White from her contemporaries. Silhouetting the grain elevators against the sky, Bourke-White pushes the composition to the edges of the picture, the human figures providing scale for the massive structures.

    The phrase “our temple view,” which appears in the title of present picture and a variant that appeared at auction in 2007, harkens back to the Machine Age exposition Bourke-White had seen in 1927. Industry was the major focus of her work for Fortune magazine, and the tremendous growth of manufacturing and transport across the United States made a religion of commerce. The secondary title Bourke-White has assigned to this image pays homage to the silos as temples of industry.

    An earlier Bourke-White’s photograph, The World’s Largest Dam, Dnieperstroi, taken in 1930 and printed in her first book, Eyes on Russia (1931), shows a similar compositional approach, with the large pillars of the dam looming over small figures below. The stylistic continuity of this Russian picture and the present lot is perhaps what appealed to the original owner of the Grain Elevators, described in the auction catalogue from which this comes as Russian Embassy personnel.


Rosenbaum Grain Elevators, Chicago, IL. (Our "temple view")

circa 1935
Gelatin silver print.
13 1/2 x 7 3/4 in. (34.3 x 19.7 cm)
Signed in pencil on the mount; stamped 'A Margaret Bourke-White Photograph' on the reverse of the mount; typed title on a label affixed to the reverse of the mount.

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $27,500

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

New York 3 April 2017