Both Sides of the Lens: Photographs of American Artists

Lot 325  Arnold Newman, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ghost Ranch, N.M., silver print, 1968. 
Mirroring our current cultural fascination with reality television, the art world has seen a surge of interest in photographs depicting artists. Whether it be candid snap shots of artists’ at play with their peers, immersed in family life or at work (seen above in Arnold Newman’s portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe imbedded in the desert landscape), these photos lift the curtain to give the viewer a peek into often enigmatic lives. 

Lot 261 Dan Budnik, Willem de Kooning, The Springs, NY, silver print, 1967.
Enthusiasm for these photos inspired Merry A. Foresta, founding Director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, to expand her 2011 exhibition at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery of the Archives of American Art into a book, Artists Unframed: Snapshots from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, released earlier this month. 
Lot 263 PaJaMa (Paul Cadmus, Jared and Margaret French), George Platt Lynes and Jared French, Fire Island, circa 1940.

In addition to making for a fantastic summer read, the book and its subject matter dovetail with some of the photographs featured in upcoming auctions at Swann. In addition to two portraits of O’Keeffe, our May 21 auction Images & Objects: Fine & Vernacular Photography features images of Joseph Cornell, John Marin, Walker Evans, and Willem de Kooning. Our June 4 auction of American Art has photos from PaJaMa (pictured above), a collaborative effort between Paul Cadmus and Jared and Margaret French, as well photos from a number of other members of Cadmus’ inner circle. 

Lot 262 Jared French, Ted Starkowski on the Beach, circa 1950.

Foresta’s book focuses not on carefully composed images, like some of those above, but snapshots. The book looks at tropes seen throughout American everyday photography: people presenting objects (or trophies), working and having fun. When those quotidian photographs have the most important American artists of the 20th century as their subjects, the result is Vernacular Spectacular