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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Private Collection
    Cheim & Read, New York

  • Exhibited

    Photographs by William Eggleston, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 25 May- 1 August 1976
    Hundred for Two Thousand, Photology, Villa Impero, Bologna, 28 January- 24 April 2000
    William Eggleston, Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris, 12 November 2001- 24 February 2002; Hayward Gallery, London, 11 July- 22 September 2002
    Cruel and Tender, Tate Modern, London, 5 June- 7 September 2003; Ludwig Museum, Cologne, 29 November 2003- 18 February 2004
    Colour After Klein, Barbican Art Galleries, London, 26 May- 11 September 2005
    William Eggleston: Democratic Camera; Photographs and Videos 1961-2008, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 7 November 2008- 25 January 2009 and 4 other venues, for this print exhibited
    Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, 13 February- 9 May 2010; Princeton Art Museum, Princeton, 29 July- 26 September 2010, for this print exhibited

  • Literature

    Barbican Art Galleries, Colour After Klein, p. 77
    Holborn, William Eggleston: Ancient and Modern, p. 29
    Hasselblad, The Hasselblad Award 1998: William Eggleston, n.p.
    Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, William Eggleston, cover and p. 44
    Moore, Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980, pl. 124
    Thames and Hudson, William Eggleston, cover and pl. 110
    Weski and Dexter, Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph, n.p.
    Weski and Sussman, William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008, frontispiece and pl. 77
    Whitney Museum of American Art, Visions from America: Photographs from the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1940-2001, p. 99
    Frieze, 'The Condition of Music: Jim Lewis Talks to William Eggleston', May 2000, p. 84

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around, that nothing was more or less important."—William Eggleston

    In 1976, John Szarkowski, the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, noted that “most color photography, in short, has been either formless or pretty. In the first case the meanings of color have been ignored; in the second they have been at the expense of allusive meanings.” It came as a surprise, therefore, that the same year the visionary Szarkowski chose William Eggleston, a Memphis-born photographer with a deep penchant for color, to become the first color photographer to receive a solo exhibition at MoMA. Expectedly, the exhibition sparked some controversy, with some critics decrying the all-too-familiar color images as banal snapshots of everyday life. Their concern was based on the lack of precedence for a color photography exhibition in a museum. Up until then photography exhibitions at MoMA had been of black and white photographs with strong social sensitivity such as the ones of works by Diane Arbus, Gary Winogrand and Lee Friendlander. By refuting tradition, therefore, Eggleston’s MoMA show became the art world’s cause célèbre, revered by some as an avant-garde, critiqued by others as trivializing fine art photography.

    The controversy likely puzzled the young photographer, whose intention to use color derived from the simple fact that “I had wanted to see a lot of things in color because the world is in color.” Eggleston’s choice for the seemingly banal was likewise embedded in a humbling honesty: “Often, people ask me what I am photographing, which is a hard question to answer,” he once noted. “The best answer that I have come up with is: ‘Life, today.’” Indeed, Eggleston’s body of work is consistent in its celebration of the quotidian, elevating the formerly unseen to the very surface of social consciousness.

    In Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973, the current lot, a seemingly unremarkable scene—an unadorned light bulb against a red ceiling—is presented from an unusual perspective, which likely necessitated Eggleston to stand on a platform and turn his lens up. “I am at war with the obvious,” Eggleston once stated, which propelled him at times to adopt angles that de-familiarized otherwise recognizable scenes. The sense of disorientation is compounded by the color red, which in essence covers every single surface in the room. To emphasize the strong impact of the color Eggleston chose to print the image as a dye transfer, which imbues the image with a rich and sumptuous saturation that is at once deeply seductive and curiously jarring. By doing so Eggleston presented an image that perfectly calibrates the aesthetic appeal with the compositional allure, satiating both of Szarkowski’s aforementioned criteria. In that regard, Greenwood, Mississippi is as much a study of color in synchrony with the mid-century American Color School Painting movement as it is a study of depth, lines and space. Moreover, the image is insistently banal in its subject matter, situating a light bulb—a mass-produced, cheap domestic appliance—at the center of an image that is seemingly closer to a snapshot than a studio shot in composition and style. Indeed, Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi) is arguably perched at the pinnacle of Eggleston’s oeuvre, fully encompassing his photographic theses.

    Likewise, in three other works: Sumner, Mississippi, circa 1970 (lot 134), Morton, Mississippi, 1969-70, (lot 142) and Near Jackson, Mississippi, circa 1970 (lot 138), Eggleston presents images that at first glance appear as approachable as photos in a family album, yet a closer look reveals otherwise. In all three photographs color assumes equal standing as the subject matter, presenting a cool, soothing green in Sumner, Mississippi that echoes the sense of privileged leisure that permeates the image; a subdued palette of earth tones in Morton, Mississippi that reflects the casual southern charm; and the striking red lining inside a child’s hooded coat in Near Jackson, Mississippi presents a jarring angle—both literally and metaphorically—of childhood. In all three works Eggleston ingeniously relied on color to add a rich narrative to his images, embodying another one of Szarkowski’s famed statements: “It isn’t what a picture is of, it is what it is about.” Indeed, Eggleston’s photographs brilliantly draw from the strength of color to heighten and reveal the understated magic and humility in everyday life, and set a new precedence for museum-caliber photography exhibitions.

  • Artist Biography

    William Eggleston

    American • 1939

    William Eggleston's highly saturated, vivid images, predominantly capturing the American South, highlight the beauty and lush diversity in the unassuming everyday. Although influenced by legends of street photography Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston broke away from traditional black and white photography and started experimenting with color in the late 1960s.

    At the time, color photography was widely associated with the commercial rather than fine art — something that Eggleston sought to change. His 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Color Photographs, fundamentally shifted how color photography was viewed within an art context, ushering in institutional acceptance and helping to ensure Eggleston's significant legacy in the history of photography.

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Greenwood, Mississippi

Dye transfer print, printed late 1970s, mounted.
11 7/8 x 18 3/8 in. (30.2 x 46.7 cm)
Signed in ink in the margin.

$220,000 - 280,000 

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