May 27, 2021 - Sale 2570

Sale 2570 - Lot 235

Price Realized: $ 42,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 20,000 - $ 30,000
ROY DECARAVA (1919-1919)
Catsup Bottles, Table and Coat, New York. Silver print, the image measuring 8 3/4x13 inches (22.2x33 cm.), the sheet 11x14 inches (27.9x35.6 cm.), with DeCarava's signature, in ink, and the title, dates, and copyright notation, in ink, in an unknown hand, on recto. 1952; printed 1982

Additional Details

The DeCarava Foundation, New York; to Joy of Giving Something Foundation, 1996; Phillips, The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1, April 3, 2017, lot 43; to the Present Owner.

Born in Harlem in 1919, Roy DeCarava began his formal artist career studying painting at The Cooper Union Institute, then painting and printmaking at the Harlem Community Arts Center, and subsequently drawing and painting under Charles White. He picked up a camera with the intention of documenting his printmaking progress, and it became his sole artistic focus in the 1940s. He brought an attuned sense of composition and tonal sophistication to the photographic medium.

DeCarava's key subjects of interests are the streets, the home, and jazz. Instead of taking a purely documentary approach to photographing everyday Harlem life, he sought to personally understand, capture, and elevate the varied textures and soul of his neighborhood. DeCarava said of his work, "It's not the subject that interests me as much as my perception of the subject."

An innovative and skilled darkroom technician, DeCarava's prints are known for their darkness. He started printing with a rich range of luxurious grays in the early 1950s, and the stylistic choice was further encouraged by the New York jazz scene. The result is alluring and mysterious photographs, that reveal meaning in layers of gray.

The early classic still life "Catsup Bottles, Table and Coat, New York," was taken in 1952 and exemplifies DeCarava's ability to render intimate, expressive qualities in form and tone. The balanced composition of light and shadow produces a subtle gradation that never quite deliveries a pure white. When considered carefully DeCarava's images disclose themes of social, cultural, and historical significance in their complex tonality.

Alinder, "Roy DeCarava Photographs," pl. 25.
Galassi, "Roy DeCarava: A Retrospective," p. 110.