Walker Evans - Photographs London Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    From the artist: to Adam Lewis, assistant to Walker Evans, 1967–69
    Christies, New York, 20 October 2003, lot 138

  • Literature

    J. Maddox, Walker Evans: Photographs for the Farm Security Administration 1935–1938, New York: Da Capo Press, 1975, pl. 249, there titled ‘Floyd Burroughs, A Cotton Sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama, Summer 1936’
    J. Thompson, Walker Evans at Work, London: Thames & Hudson, 1983, p. 126
    J. Keller, Walker Evans: The Getty Museum Collection, London: Thames & Hudson, 1995, pl. 531
    Walker Evans, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2000, pl. 88
    J. Agee, Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families, London: Violette Editions, 2001 (variant)
    G. Mora, B. Brannan, FSA: The American Vision, New York: Abrams, 2006, p. 86

  • Catalogue Essay

    Another print of this image is held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    “There has been no need to for Evans to dramatize his material with photographic tricks, because the material is already, in itself, intensely dramatic … the faces, even those tired, vicious or content, are past reflecting … the power of Evans’ work lies in the fact that he so details the effect of circumstances on familiar specimens that the single face, the single house, the single street strikes with the sense of overwhelming
    numbers …” (L. Kirstein, Walker Evans: American Photographs, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, p. 197)

    The images of tenant farmers and their circumstances taken by the Missouri-born photographer, Walker Evans, have become for many synonymous with the Great American Depression. Evans was commissioned together with other notable photographers of the time – including Dorothea Lange, whose Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, taken the same year, has become another icon of American history – to record the work of the Farm Security Administration’s rehabilitation programme. The artists involved were also tasked with documenting the farmers’ quotidian lives, by closely observing their activities over several weeks. Evans’ commission areas for the project spanned the states of Alabama (where the current lot was taken), Georgia and South Carolina. Also working on the article with Evans was James Agee, who
    wrote the unsparing words to accompany Evan’s pictures; his resulting text is viewed as being heavily subjective and at some times even autobiographical. Eventually, after starting out as one in a series of articles on the working class for Fortune magazine, their collaboration culminated in the masterpiece, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, published as a book in 1941.

    In the present image we see a noble portrait of the cotton farmer Floyd Burroughs – the husband of Allie Mae Burroughs, who is often cited as the most recognisable symbol of this period in history. Even though they are both truly of that time, transporting us immediately and vividly to their struggling world on first sight, they also completely transcend that era. In the eyes of Floyd Burroughs is a fixed, intense integrity, his strength and unwavering determination magnified by the close crop of the frame, conveying almost a numbness to his current circumstances and a knowing willingness to survive. This seminal image, which has to be one of the most important taken by Evans, has also transformed Floyd Burroughs in to the ultimate farmer-patriarch.


Alabama Tenant Farmer (Floyd Burroughs)

Gelatin silver print.
23.2 × 18.4 cm (9 1/8 × 7 1/4 in)
Signed, dated and inscribed in pencil on the mount.

£40,000 - 50,000 

Sold for £85,250


17 May 2012