Richard Avedon - Photographs New York Tuesday, April 4, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Gift from the artist

  • Literature

    Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, Portraits: Richard Avedon, n.p.
    Random House, Richard Avedon: Evidence 1944-1994, p. 156

  • Catalogue Essay

    From the series of photographs Richard Avedon took of his father, Jacob Israel Avedon, from 1967 to 1973, emerged some of Avedon’s most moving, personal, and revealing portraits. This work became the sole subject of the photographer’s first monographic New York museum exhibition, Jacob Israel Avedon, photographed by Richard Avedon in 1974 at The Museum of Modern Art. Dissatisfied with what he saw as disingenuous smiles in family photos and commercial studio portraits, Richard Avedon sought to “do something else” when photographing his father. In a letter written in 1970 explaining his photographic philosophy to his father, Avedon wrote, “when you pose for a photograph, it’s behind a smile that isn’t yours. You are angry and hungry and alive. What I value in you is that intensity. I want to make portraits as intense as people. I want your intensity to pass into me, go through the camera and become a recognition to a stranger. I love your ambition and your capacity for disappointment, and that’s still as alive in you as it has ever been.”

    Taken at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, in Jacob Israel Avedon, Father of Photographer, Sarasota 12.19.72 Avedon’s signature empty white background transforms from an uncluttered framing device to an evocation of the setting, where the stark modern white enters the realm of the clinical. Clothed in a patterned, white hospital gown that dissolves into the background, Jacob’s focused, expressive features sear and captivate.

    Avedon’s striking portrait transcends its deeply personal nature and connects to a broader audience, bringing us closer to both father and son. On the advent of Avedon’s MoMA exhibition John Szarkowski wrote of the Jacob Israel images; “Photographic portraiture, pursued with the high ambition that tradition suggests, is an enormously difficult art. It is most difficult when the photographer and the subject know each other well; in such cases each recognizes and nullifies the other’s little tricks of style—the stuff of our personae. In these circumstances only acceptance and trust can succeed. Richard Avedon’s portraits of his father are the deeply moving record of such a success.”

    While the present lot was printed at the same time as Richard Avedon's seminal 1975 exhibition, Richard Avedon: Portraits at Marlborough Gallery, New York, it was not displayed in the show.

  • 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.

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Jacob Israel Avedon, Father of Photographer, Sarasota 12.19.72

Gelatin silver print, in the original Plexiglas frame.
33 x 32 3/4 in. (83.8 x 83.2 cm)
Signed in pencil, numbered 1/10, inscribed in ink, title, date and reproduction limitation stamp on the reverse of the canvas flush-mount.

$60,000 - 80,000 

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New York 4 April 2017