Minor White - Photographs New York Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Phillips

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  • The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this auction as lots 203 through 240 comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. All of the sale’s proceeds will be distributed to six institutions with whom Bunnell was associated — Rochester Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Yale University, The George Eastman Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and Princeton University Art Museum — to establish endowments to support the study of photographic history.


    Bunnell studied photography with Minor White at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1950s. Originally intending to pursue fashion photography, it was his exposure to White that drew him to reconsider photography as vehicle for personal artistic expression. White became a mentor to Bunnell and recruited him to join the staff of Aperture magazine, the only periodical produced for, and by, photographers practicing the medium as a fine art. Bunnell gradually transitioned from being a photographer to studying the medium and its history, but his interest in – and friendship with – White endured until White’s passing in 1976. Bunnell became the acknowledged expert on White’s work, and his 1989 book Minor White: The Eye That Shapes still stands as the most complete single source of information on the photographer.  


    Peter C. Bunnell, Minor White: The Eye That Shapes (1989)

    Bunnell joined the staff of The Museum of Modern Art in 1966 as a collection cataloguer, becoming Associate Curator and then Curator of Photography. At MoMA he curated the noteworthy exhibitions Photography as Printmaking (1968), Photography into Sculpture (1970), and the first retrospective of the work of Clarence H. White (1971). In 1972, he was hired as the inaugural David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton University. 


    Bunnell served as Director of the Princeton University Art Museum from 1973 to 1978, and as Acting Director from 1998 to 2000, while also being the Museum’s Curator of Photography throughout the entirety of his tenure. Bunnell built a broad-ranging collection of photographs at the Museum, the firsthand examination of which became a central element of the student experience in his classes and seminars. Bunnell also assembled a personal collection of photography over the course of his long career that reflects his vast and deep understanding of the medium. Begun in the 1950s, before photography galleries and dealers were commonplace, Bunnell’s collection is a deeply personal one, put together with a sense of joy and curiosity that includes both icons and lesser-known gems spanning the history of photography.

    • Provenance

      Acquired from the artist
      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Literature

      White, Mirrors, Messages, Manifestations: Photographs and Writings, 1939-1968, p. 105
      Martineau, Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit, pl. 89, p. 115
      Bunnell, Minor White: The Eye that Shapes, pl. 144
      Bunnell, Inside the Photograph: Writings on Twentieth-Century Photography,, p. 111

A Reverence for Beauty: The Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Part 2


Lot offered with No Reserve

Two Barns and Shadow

Gelatin silver print.
7 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. (18.7 x 24.1 cm)
Signed in pencil on the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$7,000 - 9,000 

Sold for $10,795

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 4 April 2023