Walker Evans - Photographs New York Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private collection
    By descent to the present owner

  • Literature

    Agee and Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, n. p. (variant cropping)
    Da Capo Press, Walker Evans: Photographs for the Farm Security Administration, 1935-1936, pl. 324 (variant cropping)
    Keller, Walker Evans: The Getty Museum Collection, pl. 545 (variant cropping)
    Rosenheim, Hambourg, et al., Walker Evans, pl. 104 (variant cropping)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Walker Evans’s portrait of Bud Fields is one of the central images in the classic book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, published in 1941 with text by James Agee and images by Evans. The book focused on the Burroughs and Fields families, tenant farmers eking out a living in Alabama’s Hale County. With Agee’s unique prose style and Evans’s distinctive approach to documentary photography, the book set a new standard for literary non-fiction which still stands.
    The notations on the reverse of this print – “No number / Evans” – suggest that it may have been submitted by Evans to The Museum of Modern Art for the 1938 American Photographs exhibition and its travelling versions. Several prints in the collection of the Getty Museum bear the same notation, and Evans scholar Judy Keller discusses this in Walker Evans: The Getty Museum Collection (p. 380). Early prints of Evans’s images from this period are rare. In the years before the maturation of the market for photography as fine art Evans typically only made prints for specific purposes, such as for publication or the rare exhibition.

    Let Us Now Praise Famous Men had its genesis in an assignment Agee received from Fortune magazine to write about the plight of Southern tenant farmers. Agee invited his friend Evans to take the article’s photographs. When submitted to Fortune, the magazine’s editors rejected the article. Nonetheless, Agee continued to write, expanding the text to book length while Evans searched for a publisher. The book was initially released to lackluster sales. It was only after Agee’s 1955 death, and his posthumously awarded Pulitzer Prize for the novel Death in the Family, that the book was republished and began to receive the acclaim it deserved.


William Edwards (Bud) Fields, A Cotton Sharecropper

Gelatin silver print.
5 3/4 x 7 in. (14.6 x 17.8 cm)
Signed in pencil, credit stamp (Keller stamp C) and annotated '2-17' and 'No Number Evans' in an unidentified hand in pencil, all on the reverse of the flush-mount.

$20,000 - 30,000 

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New York Auction 7 October 2021