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  • "Many call [Frank] a documentary photographer. I see that perspective, but I also see vastly more. I see and feel the subjective point of view of a master – in my mind, the master." —Robert Richardson, ASC

     In the mid 1950s Robert Frank, funded by a succession of modest Guggenheim Fellowships, traversed the country on a series of photographic expeditions that would culminate in his seminal book, The Americans. The book’s present high status in the pantheon of photographic literature, and in the pantheon of photographic achievement, was not anticipated by its reception when published in late 1959. Reviews were resoundingly negative, and the true scope of Frank’s project was unappreciated by many in the photographic establishment. He did have several significant champions, however, and one of whom was Walker Evans. Before the publication of Frank’s book, Evans introduced his images to many Americans in the pages of the 1958 U.S. Camera Annual with the following words: 'Assuredly the gods who sent Robert Frank, so heavily armed, across the United States of America did so with a certain smile . . . That Frank has responded to America with many tears, some hope, and his own brand of fascination, you can see in looking over. . . his pictures of people, of roadside landscapes and urban cauldrons.'

     

    Walker Evans’s introduction to Robert Frank’s photographs in U.S. Camera Annual, 1958 (not in sale)
    Walker Evans’s introduction to Robert Frank’s photographs in U.S. Camera Annual, 1958 (not in sale)

    Evans was both Frank’s progenitor and a mentor, having served as a reference for the younger photographer’s Guggenheim Fellowship applications. Frank’s work was a continuation of the style of personal documentary photography that Evans had initiated in the 1930s. Political Rally – Chicago, with its focus on a distinctly American scene and its composition in which the figures are simultaneously isolated yet interdependent, shows Evans’s influence while retaining the clear stamp of Frank’s authorship.

     

    Evergreen Review, Vol. 4, No. 15, November-December 1960 (not in sale)
    Evergreen Review, Vol. 4, No. 15, November-December 1960 (not in sale)

    The choice selection of images from Robert Frank’s The Americans offered here as lots 13 through 18 all come from the collection of Robert Richardson and Monona Wali. These were acquired from the photographer in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mr. Richardson is a three-time Academy Award winning cinematographer who has worked with such acclaimed directors as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, and Errol Morris. In 2019 he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Society of Cinematographers. Ms. Wali is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and teacher. Their collection began in the 1980s with acquisitions of work by Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Adams, Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Danny Lyon, and many others – all images that synthesized the then-married couple’s dual interests in photography’s visual and narrative power.

     

    Mr. Richardson writes, 'Robert Frank’s work was my teacher in so many ways. He taught me with his precise vision how to look upon an America that others could not, or would not, or were unable to see. His career was not simply one book, The Americans, although many hold that up as perhaps the finest of his work, and the finest of anyone’s. But his later images and films with his family brought out the emotional heart of what he captured through his lens as he grew older and wiser. Many call him a documentary photographer. I see that perspective, but I also see vastly more. I see and feel the subjective point of view of a master – in my mind, the master.”

     

    The Americans, first American edition, 1959 (not in sale)
    The Americans, first American edition, 1959 (not in sale)
    • Provenance

      Acquired from the artist, late 1980s-early 1990s

    • Literature

      The Americans, no. 58
      Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, pp. 281 and 476, Contact Sheet #58
      Greenough and Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out, p. 180
      Tucker and Brookman, Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia, p. 33
      Aperture, Robert Frank, frontispiece
      Gee, Photography of the Fifties, cover and p. 156
      Green, American Photography, A Critical History, 1945 to the Present, p. 79
      Szarkowski, The Photographer's Eye, p. 152
      Szarkowski, Looking at Photographs, p. 177
      Pageant, 'A Pageant Portfolio: One Man's U.S.A., Photographs by Robert Frank,' April 1958, p. 27
      Evergreen Review, November-December 1960, cover

    • Artist Biography

      Robert Frank

      Swiss • 1924

      As one of the leading visionaries of mid-century American photography, Robert Frank has created an indelible body of work, rich in insight and poignant in foresight. In his famed series The Americans, Frank travelled the United States, capturing the parade of characters, hierarchies and imbalances that conveyed his view of the great American social landscape.

      Frank broke the mold of what was considered successful documentary photography with his "snapshot aesthetic." It is Frank's portrayal of the United States through grit and grain that once brought his work to the apex of criticism, but has now come to define the art of documentary photography.

      View More Works

Photographs from the Collection of Robert Richardson and Monona Wali

13

Political Rally – Chicago

1956
Gelatin silver print, printed later.
15 x 10 1/4 in. (38.1 x 26 cm)
Signed, dated '1955' and annotated 'Chicago' in ink in the margin.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $56,700

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairman, Americas

 

Photographs

New York Auction 8 April 2021