Vintage gravures grab attention in June 15 auction

Diane Arbus, ‘Backwards Man in his hotel room, N.Y.C. 1961,’ estimated at $400-$500

Diane Arbus, ‘Backwards Man in his hotel room, N.Y.C. 1961,’ estimated at $400-$500

NEW YORK – A gravure is the product of the process of printing from an intaglio plate; photogravure is a form of photoengraving, relying on plates or cylinders to reproduce the image. A June 15 Jasper52 sale of Vintage Gravures, which begins at 4 pm Eastern time, offers 150 lots of images by great photographers. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Few photographers loom larger in legend than Diane Arbus. She trained her lens on people who seemingly fit the definition of The Other – those who society mocked, scorned, paid to gawk at, recoiled from, and generally failed to understand. Arbus shot The backwards man in his hotel room, N.Y.C. 1961 as part of a project on eccentrics that she had pitched to Esquire magazine. It depicts Joe Allen, who performed as The Backwards Man at Hubert’s Museum, the last surviving dime museum in Times Square (so called because originally, admission was 10 cents). Arbus photographed many Hubert’s performers before the museum closed in 1965, including Allen. It’s easy to miss what makes The backwards man in his hotel room, N.Y.C. 1961 outstanding; you have to be willing to look, actually look, not glance. If you do, you will see that his head and his feet face opposing directions. In the notes she kept for the magazine project, Arbus deemed Allen “a metaphor for human destiny – walking blind into the future with an eye on the past.” This gravure was printed in 1979, eight years after her death. It is number 653 of an edition of 1,000 and carries an estimate of $400-$500.

Rudolf Koppitz, ‘Hafenarbeiter (Longshoremen),’ estimated at $800-$1,000

Rudolf Koppitz, ‘Hafenarbeiter (Longshoremen),’ estimated at $800-$1,000

Rudolf Koppitz was the finest Austrian photographer of his era. Best known for dynamic compositions such as 1924’s Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study), he was game to venture out of his studio with camera in hand. Hafenarbeiter (Longshoremen), printed a year after Koppitz’s death, seemingly captures a pair of off-duty working class men dressed in their best for a pleasant outdoor stroll. They leer at a parasol-toting young women who either doesn’t see them or studiously ignores them in hopes that they will move on and leave her alone. Drawn from a limited edition of 1,000, the Koppitz gravure carries an estimate of $800-$1,000.

Man Ray, ‘Portrait,’ estimated at $300-$400

Man Ray, ‘Portrait,’ estimated at $300-$400

Completing the sale highlights is a gravure simply titled Portrait, from a 1930s portfolio by the American Surrealist and Dadaist Man Ray. The image, depicting a lone tree in a grim, ominous black-and-white landscape, is estimated at $300-$400.

 

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