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    Sale 1612

    POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART AND DESIGN

    12 May 2005, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 141

    DIANE ARBUS

    Xmas Tree in a Living Room, Levittown, L. I., 1963

    Price Realised  

    DIANE ARBUS
    Xmas Tree in a Living Room, Levittown, L. I., 1963
    gelatin silver print
    annotated 'Christmas Tree in a Livingroom, Levittown, Long Island, 1962' in pencil (on the reverse of the mount)
    14 7/8 x 14 7/8 in. (37.8 x 37.8 cm.)


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    In 1957, Barbara Jakobson was sitting in Central Park in the "Mommy Playground" at 72nd Street, and noticed a young woman sitting apart from the sandbox by herself, sewing the hem of a little dress. Jakobson thought to herself that anyone who could isolate herself from the discussion of toilet training and nursery school must be someone worth sitting next to. She therefore moved her baby and her carriage near the bench where Diane Arbus was sitting. They struck up a playground friendship that lasted until Arbus's death, despite her subsequent move downtown from the Upper East Side. During the "Central Park era" of their friendship, Jakobson would frequently watch Amy (Arbus's younger daughter) in her pram while Diane ventured onto the various pathways to take photographs.

    In 1962, Jakobson began her apprenticeship at The Museum of Modern Art, working in its Art Lending Service. She and Arbus often met on the escalator at Bloomingdales, where they would discuss what snowsuits they were going to buy for their little girls that winter. In the late 1960s, Jakobson acquired several photographs by Arbus from the Museum's Art Lending Service, and followed her subsequent development with great satisfaction. Among the group was a print of Xmas Tree in a Living Room, Levittown, L.I. 1963, which she chose as she felt the image "embodied the post-war anomie of suburbia in the most powerful and silent way."

    Xmas Tree in a Living Room, Levittown, L.I. has come to be regarded as one of Arbus's most important photographs. Arbus included the image in her Box of Ten Photographs, a portfolio that was comprised of what she felt were to be ten images most representative of her oeuvre. The subject is exceptional as it is one of the few photographs by Arbus that does not include any people. Large format vintage prints of this image are considered to be extremely rare.