Richard Avedon - Photographs Evening Sale New York Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

  • Exhibited

    Richard Avedon: Family Affairs, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 25 March - 6 September 2014 then traveled to the National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, 1 April - 2 August 2015 , another example exhibited

  • Literature

    'The Family,' Rolling Stone, no. 224, October 21, 1976
    Adler, Roth and Goodyear, Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power, 69, 111-156
    Gagosian Gallery, Avedon: Murals and Portraits, pp. 172-173
    Random House, Richard Avedon: Evidence 1944-1994, pp. 159-160
    Random House, Avedon: The Sixties, pp. 56, 65, 88, 121 and 204
    for various prints illustrated

  • Catalogue Essay

    Over the course of a most outstanding career, Richard Avedon successfully and meticulously crafted two bodies of work—fashion and portraiture—each distinctly impressive in its own right, each unequivocally Avedon’s. From the inception of his career, first at Harper’s Bazaar and later at Vogue, Avedon challenged the norms for editorial photography. His fashion work gained recognition for its seemingly effortless energy and bursting energy, while his portraits were celebrated for their succinct eloquence. “I am always stimulated by people,” Avedon has said, “almost never by ideas.” Indeed, as seen in his portraits—be it of famed movie stars or everyday people—for Avedon the challenge was conveying the essence of his subjects. The current lot, depicting the greatest power players in American politics during the 1970s, is an embodiment of Avedon’s approach.

    The Family was originally commissioned by Rolling Stone in 1976 on the occasion of America’s Bicentennial celebration and in advance of the presidential election. Comprised of sixty-nine prints depicting a diverse cross-sectional overview of the American political milieu, The Family cleverly hints at the interconnected nature of the seemingly disparate professions represented—from President Gerald Ford to the founder of the United Farm Workers Union, Cesar Chavez. Indeed, it is noteworthy that not all of Avedon’s sitters were publically elected officials. In fact, among the sitters were bankers, media trendsetters, corporate executives, publishers, union leaders, and others, alluding to the confluence of forces that contribute to the shaping of the highest office in America.

    In keeping with his saying that “All photographs are accurate, none of them is the truth,” Avedon was not concerned with capturing the likeness of his sitters. “The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion,” Avedon has stated. All subjects were photographed against a stark, white background that stripped them of their expected context and associated insignia (oak desks, brass name plaques, paintings of past presidents, to name but a few.) “In a way,” Avedon later commented, “these pictures were almost taken by the people in the pictures. I didn't tell them what to wear. I didn't tell them how to pose. However they presented themselves, I recorded with very little manipulation.” By doing so, nuances in facial expression, posture and dress prominently rise to viewers’ awareness, gently hinting at the sitters’ underlying personalities and idiosyncrasies. Indeed, across the dozens of portraits, viewers are met with a myriad of expressions, from furrowed looks of consternation to gentle grins and broad smiles; an array of poses that range from stiff and self-contained to fluid and insouciant; and a diverse manner in dress, from jeweled haute couture to a soft-collared farmer’s shirt. The longer viewers spend studying the portraits, the more the sitters’ public personas morph into intimate characters, revealing Avedon’s gift in gradually and cleverly peeling the public façade of his sitters.

    In the nearly four decades that have lapsed since The Family was originally created, many of the sitters’ careers would greatly shift. None more so, perhaps, than Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and George Bush, all of whom would go on to be elected into the American presidency. Avedon’s iconic The Family, like a personal family album, stands at a meeting point between past and future, astutely recording the moments that had come to define an era, and offering a wise nod at the many more that were to define the ensuing decades in American politics.

    Another complete portfolio is in the permanent collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

  • Artist Biography

    Richard Avedon

    American • 1923 - 2004

    From the inception of Richard Avedon's career, first at Harper's Bazaar and later at Vogue, Avedon challenged the norms for editorial photography. His fashion work gained recognition for its seemingly effortless and bursting energy, while his portraits were celebrated for their succinct eloquence. "I am always stimulated by people," Avedon has said, "almost never by ideas." 

    Indeed, as seen in his portraits — whether of famed movie stars or everyday people — the challenge for Avedon was conveying the essence of his subjects. His iconic images were usually taken on an 8 x 10 inch camera in his studio with a plain white background and strobe lighting, creating his signature minimalist style. Avedon viewed the making and production of photographs as a performance similar to literature and drama, creating portraits that are simultaneously intensely clear, yet deeply mysterious.

    View More Works


The Family

New York: Rolling Stone, 1976, Sixty-nine gelatin silver prints.
Each approximately 10 x 7 7/8 in. (25.4 x 20 cm)
Each print signed in stylus on the recto; each signed, numbered 9/25 in pencil and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the verso. Signed and numbered 9/25 in ink on the cardboard portfolio box. Accompanied by a signed issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $233,000

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Shlomi Rabi
Head of Sale, New York

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245

Photographs Evening Sale

New York 1 April 2015 6pm