Auction Endows Fox Talbot Archive

London -- The May 7 sale of photography at Sotheby's opens with a 16-lot selection of donated photographs by leading contemporary photographers.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett will be bidding at this exciting photography auction.

Their generosity supports the Bodleian Library’s campaign to save the personal archive of English inventor William Fox Talbot who -- along with Louis Daguerre -- founded photography in 1841.

The bid to acquire and preserve the archive of Talbot's life and work was launched by the institution in 2012, in an effort to preserve a major record in the history of photography.

Hiroshi Sugimoto (b. 1948) has offered two works, neither of which has ever been released onto the market before. Photographs by Miles Aldridge, Nadav Kander, Candida Höfer, Massimo Vitali, and Martin Parr are also among the distinguished line-up.

Historical Masterpieces

The auction continues with a selection of daguerrotypes and early paper photographs, including works by Charles Nègre and Roger Fenton.

Two sublime seascapes by Gustav Le Gray (1820 – 1884) come to the market from a Private European collection. Brick au clair de lune, 1856/57 carries an estimate of £15,000-20,000, and Phare et jetée du Havre, 1856/57 is estimated to bring £20,000. Both are albumen prints and are exceedingly rare. Only one other copy is known to exist, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

An album of 44 photographs by John Beasley Greene of Egypt and Algeria, 1852-1856, captivate the viewer by their sheer modernity. Audacious framings and an ambitious treatment of light make Greene’s views some of the most radical in early photography.

In just four years, Greene created an incredibly vast photographic oeuvre; a student of Gustave Le Gray, he was also one of the rare American artists to adopt the paper negative process with great mastery.

Camille Silvy (1834 – 1910), a pioneer of early photography and one of the greatest French photographers of the 19th century, is represented in the sale with Studies on Light: Fog, London, 1859, estimate £20,000-30,000.

Working under the patronage of Queen Victoria, Silvy was one of the first exponents of ‘street photography’. This albumen print is one of his two most famous photographs. Silvy employed stylistic innovations in his technique and here he has manipulated the glass negative before printing.

Modern Beauties

Richard Avedon (1923 – 2004) is first and foremost known as a fashion photographer. Avedon/Paris, 1978, his portfolio of 11 photographs, was published to coincide with Avedon’s acclaimed retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and contains the most glamorous images of his early fashion photography.

From the Collection of the late Stanley J. Seeger comes a unique oversized print by Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 – 1989), one of the great masters of art photography and currently the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. Dan S., 1980, estimated at £40,000-60,000, is a highly stylized black and white nude that condenses Mapplethorpe’s search for aesthetic perfection.

Other gems among the contemporary photographs in the sale include Untitled, 2007 by Adam Fuss (b. 1961), a unique silver print photogram (developed without a negative) estimated at £25,000-35,000.

Robert Polidori’s (b. 1951) fascination with Versailles began after winning an exclusive contract to document the restoration of the 17th-century palace in the mid-1980s, and for more than 25 years he has been photographing the interior.

Cabinet interieur de Madame Adeleide, Château de Versailles, France, 1986, estimate £12,000-18,000, and Aile du Nord – 1er étage, Château de Versailles, France, 1985, estimate £12,000- 18,000 (illustrated right), are meditations on preserving the past, with a concentration on surface textures, intensities of colour and the quality of light.

Massimo Vitali (b. 1944) provides a modern-day commentary on man’s presence in nature. His large scale beach photographs are infused with a bleached Mediterranean light which allows his figures to stand out. Animaletti 2, 2004, is estimated at £20,000-25,000.

The sale closes with a photograph by Ahmet Ertug (b. 1949), produced in 2013. Hagia Sofia, estimated at £25,000-35,000, depicts the interior of the former mosque.

Photo above: Miles Aldridge B. 1964 'CHROMO THRILLER', 2012 Estimate £7,000-10,000 courtesy of Sotheby's.