Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)

White Angel Bread Line, San Francisco, 1933

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)
White Angel Bread Line, San Francisco, 1933
gelatin silver print, flush-mounted on Masonite, printed later
image/flush mount: 11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (29.9 x 24.9 cm.)
This work was printed by Dorothea Lange.
Private collector, California;
acquired from the above by the present owner, 2006.
Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime, Aperture, New York, 1982, p. 45.
Therese Thau Heyman, Sandra S. Phillips and John Szarkowski, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1994, pl. 1.
Karen Tsujimoto, Dorothea Lange, Archive of an Artist, Oakland Museum, 1995, p. 9.
Keith F. Davis, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1996, cover and p. 21.
Barbara Haskell, The American Century: Art and Culture, 1900-1950, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1999, pl. 483.
Pierre Borhan, Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer, Bulfinch, Boston, 2002, p. 71.

Lot Essay

The present lot was printed on Kodak Opal-N matte (smooth lustre) surface paper, which had been introduced to the market in the 1940s. Flush-mounted to Masonite with a white glue (not a mounting tissue), this work is commensurate with the artist’s lifetime practices, including the methods employed for works by Lange, and others, exhibited in the famous 1955 exhibition, The Family of Man, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

This is Lange’s earliest well-known documentary-style photograph, a moving image that depicts a solitary figure with hands clasped, well-worn hat pulled low on his brow, and turned away from a gathering of poverty-stricken men waiting in a breadline at a San Francisco soup kitchen. This particular soup kitchen was independently run, with no outside funding, by Lois Jordan, a wealthy widow known to locals as the White Angel. Jordan is credited with feeding roughly one million men over a several year period.

Taken during the throes of the Great Depression, Lange’s image and photographic work at the time led to her employment with the Federal Resettlement Administration (RA), which later became the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Under these programs, photographers and writers were brought on board to document the plight of the poor across the country. The Information Division of the FSA, under the direction of Roy Stryker, adopted a goal of 'introducing America to Americans.'

Prints of this image reside in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Oakland Museum of California, among others.

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