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  • Provenance

    Gift of the artist to the present owner, 1989

  • Literature

    The Americans, no. 36
    Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, pp. 253, 469, 470, Contact no. 36
    Frank, The Lines of My Hand, n.p.
    'The Highway: Four Photographs by Robert Frank,' Current, November 1960, p. 33
    U. S. Camera, 1958, p. 100

  • 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).

    In his application for the Guggenheim Fellowship, Frank declared his intention “to photograph freely throughout the United States, using the miniature camera exclusively. The making of a broad, voluminous picture record of things American, past and present. This project is essentially the visual study of a civilization and will include caption notes; but it is only partly documentary in nature: one of its aims is more artistic than the word documentary implies.” This “more artistic” documentary approach presents itself in US 285, New Mexico, 1956. A deep, dark image of the open road, Frank actually photographed US 285 in the daytime and then underexposed the negative, giving the impression of nighttime’s dramatic obscurity using the filmmaking technique known as ‘day for night.’ The power of this effect, Frank’s artistic vision and uncommon understanding of the American landscape was not lost on Walker Evans, one of his earliest supporters of The Americans, who remarked on this image: “In this picture, instantly you find the continent. The whole page is haunted with American scale and space.”

  • 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

270

US 285, New Mexico

1956
Gelatin silver print, printed circa 1986.
8 3/4 x 6 1/8 in. (22.2 x 15.6 cm)
Signed, titled and dated '1955' [sic] in ink in the margin.

Estimate
$70,000 - 90,000 

Contact Specialist
Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairman, Americas

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245

Photographs

New York 3 October 2017