Richard Avedon - Photographs New York Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, 2002

  • Literature

    Random House, Evidence, 1944-1994: Richard Avedon, p. 151

  • 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.”

    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.”

  • 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

Photographs from the Collection of Ed Cohen & Victoria Shaw


Jacob Israel Avedon and Richard Avedon, Sarasota, Florida, August 9, 1969

Unique gelatin silver print, printed 2002.
7 7/8 x 10 in. (20 x 25.4 cm)
Signed in pencil, title, date, 'unique print,' print date, copyright credit and reproduction limitation stamps on the verso.

$10,000 - 15,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department
+1 212 940 1225


Vanessa Hallett
Deputy Chairwoman, Americas and Worldwide Head of Photographs
+1 212 940 1243


New York Auction 7 October 2021