Edward Steichen (1879–1973), George Bernard Shaw, ‘The Photographer’s Best Model’, London, 1907. Gelatin silver print, probably printed 1950s, 9 x 7 in. (22.9 x 17.8 cm.). Estimate: £5,000–7,000
Edward Steichen was one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century. Working alongside Alfred Stieglitz he produced pictorialist images for the pages of Camera Work in the early 1900s, made a name for himself as the highest paid fashion photographer of the 20th century working for Condé Nast then later became director of the Photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was also a first class portrait photographer, capturing iconic figures in politics, literature, journalism, dance and theatre. This work, depicting the playwright George Bernard Shaw, is among my favourite portraits in the sale. A 1950s print on single weight paper, the photograph itself is incredibly delicate, standing in contrast to the heavy, charged atmosphere Steichen creates through his use of shadow and light.
Robert Frank (b. 1924), London, 1951. Gelatin silver print, 10 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. (27.7 x 35.4 cm.). Estimate: £30,000–40,000
Robert Frank is best known for his seminal work The Americans which had a profound impact on the history of photography. I am a great fan of his work and am delighted that we are presenting an image taken in London in this sale. For me, this photograph reflects the influence of the great British photographer Bill Brandt on Frank. The pair met in the early 1950s and shared an appreciation of the nuances of muted light for creating atmosphere. This work is also a fine example of Frank’s ability to find beauty and narrative in the most ordinary moments, something for which Brandt was also famous.
George Tice (b. 1938), Petit’s Mobil Gas Station, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 1974. Gelatin silver print, printed later, flush-mounted on board, mounted on board, 14 7/8 x 19 in. (37.8 x 48.2 cm.). Estimate: £6,000–8,000
We are delighted to be presenting works by George Tice for the first time in a London Photographs auction. Tice was attracted in his work to the American landscape on the verge of extinction, both rural and urban. In 1960 he began using a large format camera which enabled him to capture these scenes in more detail, creating images of great clarity and beauty. Tice is a master printer having printed for Edward Steichen, Frederick H. Evans and Edward Weston, and this example is a testament to the impeccable quality of his work.
McDermott & McGough (b. 1952 and 1958) Deprived of Head and Limbs, 1995. Two-colour photogravure, 20 x 25 1/8 in. (50.8 x 63.8 cm.). Estimate: £3,000–5,000
What is interesting about artistic duo David McDermott and Peter McGough is their use of alternative historical processes in their photography, in particular 19th century techniques such as cyanotype, gum bichromate, platinum and photogravure. These processes, which are used less and less in modern printing, call for a very hands-on approach, establishing a close relationship between the artist and the print.
Irving Penn (1917–2009), Nude, No. 40, 1949–50. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 15 7/8 in. (50.8 x 40.3 cm.). Estimate: £15,000–20,000
One of my chosen lots from the sale is this nude study by Irving Penn. Penn was one of the most prolific photographers. In his long career he explored countless themes including fashion, beauty, portraiture and still life. This nude is quite distinct from the other portraits in Penn’s series which feature more distorted, full-bodied forms. What draws me to this image is that it is both intimate and respectable, sensual rather than erotic, and of course beautiful: a quintessential Penn photograph.
Marcello Geppetti (1933–1998), Elizabeth Taylor taking a break from filming Cleopatra, 1961. Ferrotyped gelatin silver print, 9 3/8 x 7 1/8 in. (23.8 x 18.1 cm.). Estimate: £1,500–2,500
The 1950s and 1960s represent a golden era in Italian film. Owing to the relatively low cost of making films at the Cinecittà studios in Rome, stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, John Wayne and Charlton Heston flocked there to work with key Italian directors. These icons of the silver screen were followed around the city by a group of photographers capturing their off-duty shenanigans, which inspired Federico Fellini to create the character of the news photographer Paparazzo in the film La Dolce Vita. Marcello Geppetti is notable among this group of photojournalists. This work is a glorious example, with its credit and agency stamps, of a press print being used to distribute images to national and international newspapers, paving the way for the cult of celebrity in modern media.