Robert Frank - Photographs New York Thursday, April 8, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

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

  • Literature

    The Americans, no. 83
    Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, pp. 311 and 483, and Contact no. 83
    Robert Frank: Story Lines, frontispiece 6
    Szarkowski, The Photographer’s Eye, p. 86
    Aperture, Robert Frank, p. 47
    Galassi, American Photography, 1890-1965, frontispiece
    Tate Modern, Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth Century Photograph, p. 115

  • Catalogue Essay

    This poignant image of Robert Frank’s wife Mary and their two small children, Andrea and Pablo, inside his 1950 Ford Business Coup parked on the side of the highway between Houston and Del Rio, Texas, is the final plate in The Americans. While Frank primarily traveled alone, his wife and children joined him in Houston in November 1955 and traveled with him all the way to Los Angeles, where they rented a house for the winter. The family stayed together through March, and Mary helped Frank write the application for the renewal of his Guggenheim Fellowship before flying home with the children.

    As the last photograph in The Americans, U. S. 90, En Route to Del Rio, Texas serves as a coda to the rest of the book: it encapsulates Frank’s motifs of the automobile and the open road, but adds a new autobiographical element. While it is the only photograph in the book to feature his family, or to have any overtly personal reference, Frank would increasingly address autobiographical themes in the work he would pursue in the coming decades.

    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.'

  • 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


U. S. 90, En Route to Del Rio, Texas

Gelatin silver print, printed later.
11 7/8 x 7 7/8 in. (30.2 x 20 cm)
Signed, dated '1954' and annotated 'Texas' in ink in the margin.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $113,400

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairman, Americas



New York Auction 8 April 2021