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. 26
    Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, pp. 240, 468, Contact no. 26
    Frank, The Lines of My Hand, p. 83
    'Robert Frank: The Lines of My Hand,' U.S. Camera/Camera 35 Annual, 1972, n.p.
    Aperture, Robert Frank, p. 29
    Aperture, Robert Frank: The Aperture History of Photography, Vol. 2, p. 39
    Galassi, Robert Frank: In America, p. 84
    Greenough and Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out, p. 188
    Papageorge, Walker Evans and Robert Frank: An Essay on Influence, p. 13
    Szarkowski, Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960, p. 17
    Aperture, The Open Road: Photography & The American Road Trip, p. 48
    Davis, An American Century of Photography: from Dry-Plate to Digital: The Hallmark Photographic Collection, pl. 301

  • Catalogue Essay

    Robert Frank drove into Butte, Montana in May of 1956, after receiving word of the renewal of the Guggenheim Fellowship funding his project to create a photographic document of America. He traveled from San Francisco through Nevada and Utah, making photographs in each state that would be included in his final selection of images for The Americans, before heading north to Montana. Butte was, in its own way, a classic western town, home to one of the largest mineral mining operations in the world and with a rough-hewn reputation. While Frank may have had hopes of photographing mining operations in the area, as he had covered the automobile industry in Detroit, what ultimately inspired him were scenes that fell outside the industrial life of the town: a table game in a luncheonette; a woman and her children in their car; and the photograph offered here, taken from the window of the Hotel Finlen, which captures the rooftops of the town in mid-light with the vast expanse of the open-pit mine beyond. In his introduction to The Americans, Jack Kerouac wrote that Frank 'sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world. To Robert Frank I now give this message: You got eyes' – an observation which resonates strongly with this image.

    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


View from Hotel Window – Butte, Montana

Gelatin silver print, printed later.
12 5/8 x 19 in. (32.1 x 48.3 cm)
Signed, dated and annotated 'Butte—Montana' in ink in the margin.

$70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $88,200

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairman, Americas



New York Auction 8 April 2021