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

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  • "Evidence of what people in the city read, eat, see for amusement, do for relaxation and not get it.
    Sex. Advertising." —Walker Evans

    Walker Evans made this evocative Chicago street scene as part of his panoramic portrait of the city ultimately published in the February 1947 issue of Fortune magazine under the title ‘Chicago: A Camera Exploration of the Huge, Energetic Sprawl of the Midlands.’ While not illustrated, this image shows Evans working at the peak of his abilities and presents a richly detailed record of time and place. The photograph’s subject is the placard-festooned façade of Joyland Theater on State Street which advertises the salacious ‘adults only’ movie melodrama Souls in Pawn (1940) starring the risqué burlesque dancer and movie actress Ginger Britton. The display, with its grid of film stills tacked over a garish movie poster and suggestive text embellishments – ‘Red Hot,’ ‘Spicy,’ ‘What, no garters?’ – was subject matter made for Evans’s camera. In his brilliant handling he juxtaposes the lurid movie advertisements and their promise of prurient thrills with the daytime reality of a rain-damp city sidewalk and its pedestrians.


    Poster for Souls in Pawn (1940)

     The photograph encapsulates many aspects of American life that had preoccupied Evans’s work since the early 1930s. In a 1934 letter, Evans set forth a list of the things he was interested in photographing, essentially creating a shooting script he would follow for the rest of his career. He lists, in part,


    Architecture, American urban taste, commerce, small scale, large scale, the city street atmosphere, the street smell . . .
    The movies.
    Evidence of what people in the city read, eat, see for amusement, do for relaxation and not get it.


    The overwhelming majority of these elements is present in this photograph, and the image is illustrative of the persistence and depth of Evans’s photographic investigation of American life.


    Poster for Souls in Pawn (1940)

    The selection of photographs appearing here as lots 87 through 97 all come originally from the collection of New York gallerist Robert Schoelkopf (1927-1991). Schoelkopf began his career as a dealer in 1957 and became known for handling the work of Hudson River School painters as well as that of early 20th century American artists. In the mid-1960s he began incorporating photography into his Madison Avenue gallery’s exhibition program, and thus became a pioneer in creating the market for fine art photographs. He first showed Walker Evans’s work in 1966 and gave the photographer several exhibitions in the coming years, including one that dovetailed with the retrospective of Evans’s work at The Museum of Modern Art in 1971. In 1969, Schoelkopf handled the sale of duplicate prints from MoMA’s collection of Eugène Atget photographs. He was the first New York dealer to handle the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In a 1971 review of an exhibition of Brassaï’s work, Artforum praised the gallery for “continuing its attentiveness to photography” – a rarity for a New York gallery at the time. Schoelkopf’s gallery records are now in the collection of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and include extensive correspondence with Walker Evans and Brassai.

    • Literature

      Harper & Row, Walker Evans: First and Last, p. 150
      Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Walker Evans: The Hungry Eye, pl. 280
      Keller, Walker Evans: The Getty Museum Collection, pl. 1028

Property from the Collection of Robert J. Schoelkopf



Gelatin silver print.
6 3/4 x 7 in. (17.1 x 17.8 cm)
Signed in pencil on the mount; titled, dated in pencil and credit stamp (Keller stamp C) on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $37,800

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department
+1 212 940 1225


Vanessa Hallett
Deputy Chairwoman, Americas and Worldwide Head of Photographs
+1 212 940 1243


New York Auction 7 October 2021