Naomi Savage - The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection New York Wednesday, January 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this online auction comes from the collection of Peter C. Bunnell (1937-2021), the pioneering curator, teacher, and photographic historian. All lots are sold with No Reserve and the 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.


    The photoengraved plate in this lot was shown in the 1968 Museum of Modern Art exhibition Photography as Printmaking. Curated by Bunnell, the exhibition showcased over a century of photographic works exemplifying various approaches to printing and material exploration. Seeking to reconsider the historical differentiation between ‘straight’ imagery and the interpretative aspects of the object itself, the exhibition foregrounded the relevance of mixed media.

     “The approach to photography as printmaking seeks to make the medium visible, whereas the so-called ‘straight’ approach seeks to make it invisible. By pointing out which technique has been used by each artist, it is hoped that the exhibition will provide a sense of the immense variety of photographic media that is available to him. It is also intended to show how the artist has been moved by his own inner compulsion to select a technique, integrate its expressive potential with his initial vision, and extend it though his final presentation.”
    —Peter C. Bunnell 

    Naomi Savage
    The reverse of the photoengraved plate with exhibition loan label for Photography into Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, 1970.


    Bunnell began his long career in photography as a student of Minor White’s at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s and was recruited by White to work on the seminal periodical of artistic photography, Aperture. He joined the staff of The Museum of Modern Art in 1966 as a collection cataloguer, becoming Associate Curator and then Curator of Photography. 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 photographer
      Collection of Peter C. Bunnell, Princeton, New Jersey

    • Exhibited

      Photography as Printmaking, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, March-May 1968: the photoengraved plate

    • Literature

      Bunnell, Degrees of Guidance: Essays on Twentieth-Century American Photography, p. 149

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection


Lot offered with No Reserve

Selected Variants: Enmeshed Man

Two unique works comprising a photoengraved silver-plated copper plate with applied pigment, and an inkless intaglio print.
9 7/8 x 7 3/4 in. (25.1 x 19.7 cm) (photoengraved plate)
11 x 8 1/2 in. (27.9 x 21.6 cm) (intaglio print)

The plate signed in ink, credit stamp, and Museum of Modern Art loan label on the reverse of the frame. The print signed, titled, and dated in pencil in the margin.

Full Cataloguing

$2,000 - 3,000 

Sold for $10,080

Contact Specialist

Christopher Mahoney

Senior International Specialist


Vanessa Hallett

Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman

The Eye That Shapes: Further Selections from the Peter C. Bunnell Collection

Online Auction 25 January - 1 February 2023