Robert Frank - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 3, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gift from the artist to the present owner, 1989

  • Literature

    The Americans, no. 58
    Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, pp. 281, 476, Contact no. 58
    Akron Art Museum, Robert Frank and American Politics, p. 18
    Aperture, Robert Frank, frontispiece
    Greenough and Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out, pp. 129, 180
    Tucker and Brookman, Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia, p. 33
    Gee, Photography of the Fifties, cover, p. 156
    Green, American Photography, A Critical History, 1945 to the Present, p. 79
    Kismaric, American Politicians: Photographs from 1843 to 1993, p. 151
    Newhall, The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present Day, p. 200
    Szarkowski, Looking at Photographs, pp. 176-177
    Szarkowski, The Photographer's Eye, p. 152

  • Catalogue Essay

    Robert Frank traveled the United States, capturing the parade of characters, hierarchies and societal imbalances of the great American social landscape. Frank embarked on his project documenting America after becoming the first European to be awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. The application that outlined his intentions for the project included written references from the renowned American photographers Walker Evans and Edward Steichen. Of his 27,000 pictures taken during this time, Frank selected an iconic sequence of 83 images that appears in every edition of his famed book, The Americans.

    One of the most significant photobooks in the history of photography, The Americans has been released in numerous editions and languages since its initial publication in 1958. In 1986, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, sought to acquire 27 prints from this important series for their permanent collection. In order to raise the funds necessary for such a sizable and significant acquisition, The Met's Department of Photographs approached a small group of donors for assistance. Robert Frank, pleased at the prospect of The Met's acquisition, offered, through Pace/MacGill Gallery, three prints from The Americans to be printed as a gift for each donor. The following three lots on offer here come directly from one of the private collectors whose generous support helped make The Met's 1986 Robert Frank acquisition possible. Collectively, The Met patrons selected three of Frank's most significant and sought-after images: Trolley, New Orleans, 1955 (lot 268), Chicago-Political Rally, 1956 (lot 269), and US 285, New Mexico, 1956 (lot 270).

    Whether subtle or explicit, politics are never far from sight in The Americans, with a number of images, such as Chicago-Political Rally, 1956, capturing parades, civic events and rallies across the country. In 1956, when this photograph was taken, Chicago-native Adlai Stevenson II was running, for a second time, for President of the United States, and was predicted to lose in a landslide, for a second time, to Dwight D. Eisenhower. On Chicago-Political Rally, John Szarkowski wrote: “From the fine shiny sousaphone rises a comic strip balloon that pronounces once more the virtue of ritual patriotism. On either side of the tuba-player stand his fellows, as anonymous and as dependable as he. It is somehow proper—funnier, sadder, and truer—that the occasion should have been an Adlai Stevenson rally.” The odd reality that Szarkowski points to, that of an excited rally steeped in American patriotism, held in support of an all but doomed candidate running against an immensely popular incumbent and celebrated General, reveals the distinct brilliance present throughout The Americans.

  • 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.

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Photographs from a Private Collection, New York


Chicago-Political Rally

Gelatin silver print, printed circa 1986.
9 x 6 in. (22.9 x 15.2 cm)
Signed, titled and dated in ink in the margin.

$70,000 - 90,000 

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Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairman, Americas

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New York 3 October 2017