Rago Arts and Auction Center sale to feature selections from Dan Berley photography collection

Over 200 works from the Estate of Dan Berley will take center stage at Rago’s upcoming auction of 19th and 20th century photographs, on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008 at 3 p.m.

Dan Berley was a pioneer collector and a publisher of limited edition photography portfolios. He began collecting in the early 1960s, one of a few individuals who recognized photography as a serious art form at that time. He curated an extensive personal collection of 19th and 20th century photography before his death and co-published fine art photography portfolios with famed dealer Lee Witkin under the imprimatur Witkin-Berley, Ltd.  Gallery owner Howard Greenberg was a close friend to Berley and was asked by the family to take charge of his collection after Berley died in January 2006.

"Dan was, above all else, an arbiter of taste," said Howard Greenberg. "His collecting reflected an appreciation for a broad range of photography and one could make a strong case that he was the creator of the modern photography portfolio, I believe that the ‘provenance’ of the Dan Berley Collection will come to be seen as an important one."  "I dare say you won’t find images this desirable with such attractive presale estimates at any of the other fall sales," added Meredith Hilferty, who heads Rago’s fine art division. The 300-lot sale is full of photographs made exceptional by virtue of rarity, provenance, quality of image and size.

Here are Man Ray’s extremely rare 1933 portrait Picasso, Paris, signed, dated and titled (presale estimate $15,000-$25,000) and Tina Modotti’s An Aztec Baby on its original mount (presale estimate $40,000-$60,000). Berley chose two exceptional works by Edward Steichen for his own: the sunlit portrait of Miss Fanny Wickes (presale estimate $8,000-$12,000) and a historically significant print of the penumbral In Memoriam, New York. This print was used by Steichen in dummy book for "A Life in Photography," published by MOMA (presale estimate $10,000-15,000).

Collectors will take note of August Sander’s Pastry Cook, 1928 both because its image is the artist’s most famous and because it is oversized (presale estimate $6,000-$8,000). There are numerous photographs here of the U.S. in the 1930s. Four were taken by Berley’s great friend, Ralph Steiner, and given to him directly. Three are by Dorothea Lange, among them an exceptional print of Road Leading to Small Farm in Northern Oregon made from the original negative (presale estimate $3,000-$5,000).

There are rare and unique photograms by Dr. Dain L. Tasker; Alfred Steiglitz’s Portrait of John Marin (presale estimate $20,000-$30,000); and Imogen Cunningham’s Two Callas, arguably her best image of flowers and certainly her rarest, with an excellent MOMA provenance (presale estimate $10,000-$15,000).

Collectors will find many more highly desirable images taken in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s from Berenice Abbott, Frantisek Drtikol, André Kertész, Ruth Bernhard, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Margaret Bourke White, Roman Vishniac, Marion Post Wolcott, Walker Evans, Louis Faurer, Robert Doisneau, Arnold Newman, Edward Weston, Harry Callahan and Albert Renger-Patzsch.

The sale opens with photographs of the late 18th/early 19th century. The first are by Jacques Henri Lartigue, who so lovingly chronicled the Belle Epoque’s privileged class. Lot 1, Woman with Fox Fur, Avenue des Acacias (which quite makes the argument for Lartigue as the first fashion photographer) is inscribed to Dan Berley by the photographer (presale estimate $3,000-$5,000). The Whidby workers of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe are collected here in a number of his gallery’s photos, as are the English photogravures of Steichen compatriot Alvin Langdon Coburn, including St. Paul’s from Ludgate Circus.

Here, too, are Eugene Atget, represented by (among others) Hotel Lambert, printed in 1900 (presale estimate $8,000-$10,000); Julia Margaret Cameron’s famous image of astronomist Sir John Hershel, printed in 1867 (presale estimate $40,000-$60,000); and work by Edward S. Curtis, including an unbound volume of The North American Indian containing 67 of the original 77 photogravures of the Nez and five other tribes (presale estimate $3,000-$5,000). Also here: Paul Strand’s Photograph, New York from Camera Work, June 1917 (presale estimate $4,000-$6,000), complemented by largely complete issues of Camera Work.

Those in search of cityscapes, architectural and industrial images will not leave disappointed. The sale includes Louis Faurer’s and Edward Quigley’s views of Philadelphia and memorable photographs of New York by Karl Struss, Berenice Abbott, Ben Shahn, Wendell MacRae, Adolf Fassbender and Alfred Eisenstaedt, as well as a partial portfolio of NY photographs by Brett Weston and Edward Steichen’s The George Washington Bridge, New York, 1931. Allen Ginsberg and Ruth Orkin took aim from their respective Manhattan apartments to produce View Out My Kitchen Window (presale estimate $3,000-$5,000) and View from My Window (presale estimate $1,000-$2,000). Interior View of Station, Newark by Ralston Crawford, exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Crawford exhibition, is for sale (presale estimate $3,000-$5,000), as are zeppelins and ships by Eisenstaedt. A rare architectural image that should be far better known is the nautilus F.S. Lincoln entitles Upshot of Stairway, Paris Apartment House, Architect: Mallet-Stevens (presale estimate $3,000-$4,000).

The world of fashion is a sublime circus, evidenced by the clown dowagers at Lisette Model’s Fashion Show, Hotel Pierre, New York (presale estimate $6,000-$8,000), the frozen beauties of Phillippe Halsman and Constantin Joffe and Andre de Dienes’ photograph of a very young and naturally beautiful Marilyn Monroe (presale estimate $2,000-$4,000). Portraits of great artists by great artists are here in a curated selection that features Barbara Morgan’s Charles Sheeler and His Favorite Beech Tree, Irvington and Merce Cunningham, "Root of the Unfocus" (presale estimate $6,000-$8,000 for each); Imogen Cunningham’s Alfred Steiglitz (presale estimate $3,000-$5,000); Yousef Karsch’s Georgia O’Keeffe (presale estimate $4,000-6,000); Roman Vishniac’s Albert Einstein in Princeton and Brassai’s Alberto Giacometti dans son atelier (presale estimate $3,000-$4,000); and Inge Morath’s Saul Steinberg with Nose Mask, Manhattan (presale estimate $4,000-$6,000).

Add to this Beaumont Newhall’s portrait of Edward Weston, Allen Ginsberg’s Paul Bowles, Manuel Komroff’s e.e. cummings, Ruth Orkin’s Woody Allen, Halsman’s Woody Allen and his Edward Albee and William Paul Gottlieb’s Duke Ellington. Certain photographers are irretrievably identified with the natural world. Here are Ansel Adams’ California images including Nasturiums, Big Sur, CA (presale estimate $4,000-6,000), Joel Meyerowitz’s seascape House Without Walls: Blue Sky (presale estimate $2,000-$3,000) and three images by Elliot Porter. Take note of the portfolios: Portfolio of Ten Photographs, which was shot and printed by Brassai (presale estimate $30,000-$50,000); the 15 print A Hungarian Memory from Andre Kertesz (presale estimate $15,000-$20,000); Robert Doisneau’s Portraits (presale estimate $20,000-$30,000); Ernest Haas’ lyric The Creation (presale estimate $15,000-$20,000); and more by Jerry N. Uelsmann, Elliot Erwitt, Judy Dater and Nathan Lyons, many of these published by Witkin-Berley, Ltd.

The sale includes wonderful work by Henri Cartier-Bresson: Ile de la Cité, Paris (presale estimate $4,000-6,000); Mexico (presale estimate $6,000-9,000); and the stunning, warm-toned image Sumatra, Indonesia (presale estimate $12,000-$18,000). Edward Steichen’s MOMA exhibition The Family of Man and its companion volume brought both the world and the art of photography into millions of American homes. Eugene V. Harris’s Peruvian Flute Player, which Steichen chose for the book’s cover image, is here (presale estimate $3,000-$4,000).

Other images of the world’s people available at Rago’s are Robert Frank’s Peru (presale estimate $20,000-$30,000); Laura Gilpin’s Old Lady Long Salt, Spinning, Navaho Mountain Area (presale estimate $6,000-8,000); Robert Capa’s Israel Refugee (presale estimate $4,000-$6,000); W. Eugene Smith images of Africa, South America and Spain, including Spanish Wake and The Spinner, both from his Portfolio of Ten Photographs (presale estimate $4,000-$6,000 each); and Bruce Davidson’s untitled image from Welsh Miners (presale estimate $8,000-$12,000).

Yet more great ethnographic photographers are represented here, though what appeals to their observing eyes is of a somewhat different bent. Among these is Diane Arbus, as represented by Patriotic Young Man with a Flag, N.Y.C. (presale estimate $25,000-$30,000); images of city-dwellers from Leon Levinstein and Garry Winogrand; three playful Elliott Erwitt "anatomical studies"; Summer of Love images by Burk Uzzle and two wonderfully contrasting Larry Fink photographs of women embraced by men. (Sold separately, they should be viewed together at least.) More excellent work from the 1950s is for sale from photographers Minor White, O. Winston Link, Danny Lyon, Bill Brandt, Frederick Sommer, Aaron Siskind, Walker Evans, Michael Kenna, Ray K. Metzker, George Tice, Milton H. Greene and Stephen Shore.

Exhibition Preview Saturday, Nov. 8 through Saturday, Nov. 15 and from Nov. 17-21 at Rago Arts and Auction Center, midway between New York City and Philadelphia (near Princeton, N.J.).  Telephone, absentee, online bidding available for those unable to attend. 

For more information and to view online catalog, visit www.ragoarts.com.

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