5 minutes with… A maquette that rethought the female nude

5 minutes with… A maquette that rethought the female nude

Philippe Garner, Deputy Chairman of Photographs, discusses Sam Haskins’ maquette for Cowboy Kate & Other Stories — a ‘revolutionary’ book of black-and-white images from 1964

‘One of the most interesting lots in our 20 May 2016 Photographs sale was an original maquette for the 1964 book Cowboy Kate & Other Stories — a landmark project by photographer Sam Haskins,’ says Philippe Garner, Christie’s Deputy Chairman of Photographs.

‘This maquette is one of four made by Haskins, and would have been presented to prospective publishers,’ Garner explains. ‘It is lovingly, meticulously made by the photographer himself, from beautiful gelatin silver prints, cut precisely to their pages.’ 

Shot in striking black and white, the work comprises 125 photographs of female nudes, the images sequenced with section titles. ‘It brings to the subject a refreshing sense of informality and spontaneity. The effect is cinematic, evoking a series of unfolding narratives,’ comments Garner. 

‘It flows well and has tremendous vitality. Haskins was a master of his medium who wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries, embracing the ‘imperfect’ to dramatic effect — deliberately exploiting the grain of the film, or using blur to convey a sense of movement.’

Sam Haskins (1929-2009), Original Maquette for Cowboy Kate & Other Stories, 1963-1964. Comprising 125 images and 7 dummy text pages on single or involving multiple gelatin silver prints, mounted back to back on card, bound in contemporary black cloth. This work was offered in our Photographs sale on 20 May 2016 at Christie’s in London and sold for £35,000

Sam Haskins (1929-2009), Original Maquette for Cowboy Kate & Other Stories, 1963-1964. Comprising 125 images and 7 dummy text pages on single or involving multiple gelatin silver prints, mounted back to back on card, bound in contemporary black cloth. This work was offered in our Photographs sale on 20 May 2016 at Christie’s in London and sold for £35,000

The result, Garner concludes, was ‘revolutionary’. ‘Cowboy Kate was,’ he says, ‘much more than a book of photographs of the female nude. It breathed new life into its subject, and encouraged photographers and designers to rethink what an illustrated book might be. It is a work that was — and continues to be — a source of inspiration to others.’