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Diane Arbus (1923-1971)
From 1969 to 1971 Arbus was absorbed in the creation of a limited edition portfolio, A box of ten photographs. The portfolio was intended to present her work as an artist in the manner of the special print editions offered by new artists' presses such as Crown Point and Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE). This group of pictures and its presentation was a very conscious statement of what she stood for, and how she regarded her own photography. The pictures range from the relatively early ones of the Nudists in their summer home and Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I., both of 1963; through the now iconic Identical twins, Roselle, N.J., 1967 and Westchester Couple sunning themselves on their lawn, to the later pictures of the Jewish giant, the Mexican Dwarf in his hotel room, N.Y.C. and the King and Queen of a senior citizens' dance, N.Y.C., all of 1970. There is clearly an attempt to be representative of the general idea, the larger plan behind her work. There is also a significant stylistic range, from the graceful daylight in the picture of te older couple in the nudist camp, to the later picture of the elderly king and queen, whom she photographed with sharp flash. She included Xmas tree, a work without human subjects. The prints for this portfolio were selected three years after the New Documents exhibition, before there was thought of another show. But the pictures constituted a kind of exhibition in and of themselves, to be examined one at a time, rather than all at once. From her letters, we know that the idea of a clear box was very important; it was to serve as both a container and a display case allowing the owner to reorder and display the pictures easily. Just as she had wanted the black border of the print to show in the New Documents exhibition, here she wished to exhibit the entire print as it appeared on the photographic paper. Most of the pictures in the portfolio either depict families or refer to the family. Even the corner of the cellophane-looking room in Levittown is made by peering over the two outstretched arms of a family armchair, posed like the trousered knees of the empty chair in the picture of the Jewish giant. The idea of the family album was a private but expressive metaphor for her. As in a family album, each member is part of the larger group; they are related, perhaps even tolerated, and harmony may be rare and perhaps even uninteresting. But they are all considered with the same intelligent and human regard. She photographed the Jewish giant as a mythic figure, enclosed in a modest Bronx living room, an unconventional member of an otherwise conventional family: 'I know a Jewish giant who lives in Washington Heights or the Bronx with his little parents. He is tragic with a curious bitter somewhat stupid wit. The parents are orthodox and repressive and classic and disapprove of his carnival career...They are truly a metaphorical family. When he stands with his arms around each he looks like he would gladly crush them. They fight terribly in an utterly typical fashion which seems only exaggerated by their tragedy...Arrogant, anguished, even silly.' - Phillips, 'The Question of Belief,' Diane Arbus: Revelations, pp. 66-67
Diane Arbus (1923-1971)

A Jewish Giant at home with his parents, 1967

Details
Diane Arbus (1923-1971)
A Jewish Giant at home with his parents, 1967
gelatin silver print, printed 1970-71
stamped 'a diane arbus print', signed, numbered '6882-9U-1620' in ink by Doon Arbus, Administrator, and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamps (on the verso); accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, signed by Doon Arbus
13 5/8 x 12in. (34.5 x 30.4cm.)
Provenance
With Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York
Literature
Diane Arbus, Aperture, 1972, n.p.; Diane Arbus Revelations, Random House, 2003, p. 209 for contact sheet, 300-301

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