Feb 15, 2024 - Sale 2659

Sale 2659 - Lot 16

Estimate: $ 30,000 - $ 50,000
RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)
Portrait of the artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Silver print, the image measuring 15¾ inches (40 cm.) square, flush mounted, with Avedon's signature, title, negative and exhibition dates, and notation "Minneapolis Institute of Arts" in ink, and a Minneapolis Institute of Arts label with Avedon's credit on mount verso; accompanied by a letter of provenance. 1958

Provenance: Gifted to Paul Corlett, the Assistant Curator of Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Art; to Lee Marks Fine Art; to the Collection of Dr. James and Debra Pearl

Avedon printed this portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe for his solo exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, held in 1970. The exhibition was his first substantial show at a major institution (in 1962 the Smithsonian held a solo show of Avedon's work, but it was informal in its approach and installation). The Richard Avedon Foundation holds the remainder of the prints from the exhibition, but this work was gifted to Paul Corlett, the Assistant Curator at the institution. A letter describing this provenance accompanies the print.

According to the Avedon Foundation, to the best of their knowledge, this is the only print in existence of this frame from Avedon's sitting with Georgia O'Keeffe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a variant in their collection, and another variant was included in Avedon's first book Observations.

Richard Avedon famously said "My photographs don't go below the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues." And indeed, Avedon's now-iconic approach to portraiture--employing a white background with strobe lighting and a large-format camera--gives space for the visual complexity of his subjects, highlighting the humanity and suggesting the inner life of the person on the other side of the camera. Here his portrait of O'Keeffe considers the textural landscape of her skin, her eyes, her hair, even her clothing, each detail rendered with clarity and equality. O'Keeffe's expression is conspiratorial and open, as if caught in a wry joke, revealing something profound as well as something tantalizingly both essential and elusive of Avedon himself.