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  • 10/18/12--10:06: Grounded in Life

  • Figurative artists Eldzier Cortor, Hughie Lee-Smith and Charles White stayed true to their roots in social realism as their work evolved in the post-war decades. Unlike contemporaries Charles Alston, Norman Lewis and Hale Woodruff, these three resisted the trend towards abstraction, or “going modern” as Woodruff called it. Their shared experiences in the Chicago Renaissance of the early 1940s, the WPA and the rapid growth of urban culture helped shape their artistic identities.

    Charles White's Songs of Lifeis an exquisite example of his
    large pen and ink drawings from the 1950s
    Charles White’s large pen and ink, Songs of Life, 1953-54, demonstrates his tremendous commitment to realism and drawing through the 1950s. Just as White’s career was peaking in New York with exhibitions and museum acquisitions, social realism was falling out of favor artistically and politically. White added a sense of grandeur and dignity to the realism of his large-scale depictions of working men and women, and his work received new critical acclaim. In the following decades, when painting outgrew the easel, Charles White continued to elevate the genre of figure drawing through his own life-sized statements of black dignity.  

    Hughie Lee-Smith's Boy with Flute is a significant painting in the
    artist's oeuvre, a mid-career reinterpretation of one of his
    best known subjects--the solitary flute player against a
    desolate landscape 
    Hughie Lee-Smith also continued to explore his social-realist message in his mid-career painting. Lee-Smith enjoyed critical and commercial success, winning the Emily Lowe Competition in 1957, showing with Petite Gallery and later Janet Nessler Gallery in New York. His earlier paintings of desolate spaces were largely drawn from personal experiences or those shared by other African Americans. Lee-Smith began to flirt with surrealism by adding ominous elements to his settings, and by the end of the decade, darker undertones were added to his palette while his paintings grew in size from masonite to canvas. Moreover, his figures moved into a new dream-like, psychological space that addressed more universal, existential ideas of isolation.

    Eldzier Cortor's Classical Composition No. 4 is one of the
    largest known examples of his long study of the beauty of
    the African-American woman 
    In the post-war period, Eldzier Cortor changed the settings of his figures to redefine his type of realism. In the 1940s Cortor had already moved his paintings from the working class setting of Chicago to the allegorical or magical realism he found in the South and the Gullah Islands – epitomized by his famous Southern Gate, 1942-4. But in the post-war period, Cortor looked for a more distilled expression, what he called a “timeless” quality. Cortor focused exclusively on the African-American female form; he started a series of prints, drawings and paintings of dancers in the late 1960s, and around 1970, he began another series he called “classical studies” with heads in profile or figures of elegant, elongated and idealized women. 

    All three artists demonstrate consistency in their approach and a trust in the figure as a vehicle of expression, both formally and intellectually. Their unique voices are now regarded as important contributions to 20th Century American Art. Yet these artists don’t fall neatly into the categories of American, modern and contemporary art--a testament to the richness and longevity of their art, and an unwillingness to be defined by convention.

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    Swann's October 11 sale of Art, Press & Illustrated books resulted in strong prices from examples of fine art press books to pop art portfolios. Notably, Gustav Klimt's first and only monograph, Das Werk von Gustav Klimtbrought a record $144,000, more than three times the high estimate. The portfolio contains 50 collotype plates in a case designed by Julius Dratva.

    Gustav Klimt, Das Werk von Gustav Klimt, Einleitende Worte: Hermann Bahr, Peter Altenberg,
    50 plates in original case designed by Julius Dratva, Vienna and Leipzig, 1918.
    Sold October 11, 2012 for an auction record of $144,000.
    A copy of Andy Warhol's classic illustrated book, 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy, 1954, sold for $52,800. The quirky hand-made book was a collaboration between Warhol, his mother, and many friends, who helped color in the cats. Warhol gave them as Christmas gifts, and it is believed approximately 150 copies were produced. 
    Andy Warhol, 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy,  18 hand-colored lithographs, New York, 1954.
    Sold October 11, 2012 for $52,800.
    A first edition of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Wasmuth Portfolio," formally titled Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe, 1910, brought $22,800. The portfolio was a collaboration between Wright and the publisher Ernst Wasmuth, who wanted to publish a complete folio of Wright's work to date. It was popular in Europe, and was dubbed the "the most important book of the century" by contemporary architects.
    Frank Lloyd Wright, Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe, two portfolios, Berline, 1910.
    Sold October 11, 2012 for $22,800.

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    Swann is pleased to announce that power is back in the Flatiron district, and we will be open for previews on Saturday, November 3, from noon to five pm. 

    Please join us tomorrow to preview two stellar visual art auctions being held this week: Old Master Through Modern Prints (auction Tuesday, November 6) and Rare & Important Travel Posters (auction Thursday, November 8).

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  • 11/05/12--12:55: One Week: Two Auctions
  • Swann Galleries is pleased to be back open and to offer two outstanding auctions in one week. Tomorrow we will conduct a sale of Old Master Through Modern Prints, which was originally scheduled for October 31. More than 530 works--including a collection of prints, drawings and livres d'artise by Salvador Dali--are on view today until 6 PM, and tomorrow from 10 AM to noon.

    On Thursday, we will hold our annual auction of Rare & Important Travel Posters, which features some of the finest examples of travel images from around the world. The preview for this sale is open now through Thursday. 

    As happy as we are to be back open, our hearts go out to everyone affected by hurricane Sandy and especially those still coping with its aftermath.

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  • 11/06/12--08:02: The Artist's Doctor
  • Today's auction of Old Master Through Modern Prints features an impression of Vincent van Gogh's only etching, titled Homme à la Pipe: Portrait du Docteur GachetFollowing his clash with Gauguin in Arles in December 1888, during which van Gogh cut off a part of his own ear, and a subsequent year in an asylum, the artist moved to Auvers-sur-Oise to be cared for by Dr. Paul Gachet. A physician as well as an Impressionist art collector and amateur painter/printmaker, Gachet had treated Camille Pissarro and was friends with Manet, Renoir and Cézanne. In 1873, at Auvers-sur-Oise, Gachet had urged Cézanne to make his first etchings. 

    Soon after the start of his treatment in 1890, at Gachet's prompting, van Gogh etched this portrait of the doctor, working on a small etching press that Gachet had installed in his house. With renewed vigor, van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo of plans he had to make additional etchings: "I hope very much to do a few etchings on Southern [French] subjects, say six, since I can print them without expense at Dr. Gachet's, who is willing to pull them for nothing, if I make them." 

    Vincent van Gogh, Homme à la Pipe: Portrait du Docteur Gachet, etching, 1890.
    Estimate $60,000 to $90,000. At auction November 6, 2012.

    The portrait shows the doctor with a melancholic expression similar to the two oil portraits van Gogh made of him in June 1890 (one now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris; the other in a private collection). He remarked, in a letter to Theo, "I've done the portrait of M. Gachet with a melancholy expression, which might well seem like a grimace to those who see it . . . Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent, that is how many portraits ought to be done . . . There are modern heads that may be looked at for a long time, and that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later." On first seeing his brother's etched portrait of Gachet, Theo called it "a true painter's etching. No refinement in the execution, but a drawing on metal." 

    Sadly, van Gogh never escaped the melancholy and mental illness that plagued him during this time. Only two months after completing the etching, on July 27, 1890, aged 37, he shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He remained alive for 29 hours after the incident and died with his beloved brother Theo at his side, to whom he uttered his final words: "The sadness will last forever."

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  • 11/08/12--09:38: Manhattan in the Dark
  • Last week, when millions of people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lost electricity due to Hurricane Sandy, we were reminded of earlier times, when the lights of New York weren't quite as bright as they are today. Those outside of Manhattan saw a different skyline in the evenings, and thousands of tri-state area residents were compelled to document their storm experiences photographically. #Sandy was used more than any other tag in Instagram's history as amateur photographers documented their experiences on a local scale, while professional photographers sought out iconic views of the city.

    One such image made it to the cover of New York magazine. Iwan Baan's recognizable, yet eerie and unfamiliar image of lower Manhattan in the dark, with a clear line of delineation around 34th Street where the city reemerges into brightness makes for a striking cover. 

    Frank Soltesz, TWA / Constellation / Sky Coach, circa 1952.
    Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.
    It's a familiar angle of the city in a unique moment, and we were amused to find, coming back to Swann after the storm, that today's Rare & Important Travel Posters sale features a poster that shows a similar, yet again, altogether different view of our city. Frank Soltesz's 1952 image for TWA shows the city at sunset, and even still, it is clear that those lights aren't as bright as they are today. The geography is also different from Baan's image: 60 years ago, the Battery, the World Trade Center site, wasn't developed. 

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    The holiday season seems to have surprised everyone this year with its early arrival, but there is still time to get your Christmas cards in order. Need inspiration? Look no further than Swann's American Art / Contemporary Art sale, which features three very different Christmas greetings from well-known artists.

    Roy Lichtenstein, Seascape, color screenprint, folded card, circa 1965.
    Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.
    Perhaps in the most traditional format for a greeting, Roy Lichtenstein's Seascape, circa 1965 was commissioned by the Tremaine family of Connecticut as the front of a folded Christmas card in 1965, based on a work in the Tremaine collection. It is festive without being overtly seasonal.
    Damien Hirst, Christmas Greetings from Momart and Damien Hirst: Ho, Ho, Ho!,
    screenprint encapsulated in acrylic, in original blue box, 1997. Estimate $1,200 to $1,800.
    Damien Hirst's 1997 Christmas greeting is a far cry from a traditional card. A collaboration with the British art storage company Momart, Hirst's acrylic cube is housed in a blue ribbed box that reads Ho, Ho, Ho! 
    Andrew Wyeth, The Open Window, watercolor on card stock. Estimate $25,000 to $35,000.
    Among the American Art offered in the sale is a small painting by Andrew Wyeth, titled The Open Window. The only hint of the holidays on the front of the watercolor is a red striped stocking to the left of the titular window. The verso, however, features a painting of Santa Claus by Wyeth's wife Betsy, inscribed with "Here it is!! Betsy & Andy."  
    On the verso of Wyeth's card, a painting of Santa Claus
    by Andrew Wyeth's wife Betsy.

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  • 11/27/12--15:31: A Postcard from Picasso
  • Swann's upcoming Autographs auction features numerous signatures from founding fathers, Presidents, scientists, inventors, writers and musicians. Among the material in the sale related to artists is a timely postcard for the holiday season, sent by Pablo Picasso to Henri Defossé, conductor of the orchestra performing for the Ballets Russes, with New Year's greetings.

    Postcard from Pablo Picasso to Henri Defossé, 2 December 1919. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.
    In 1919 Picasso's first wife Olga performed with Les Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev in a ballet called Le Tricorne, which premiered in London the previous July. Picasso had designed the scenery for that performance, and designed sets for the company in subsequent years as well.

    The artist signed the card "Olga et Picasso" and doodled a small black-and-white drawing of a holiday feast complete with a roasted bird, wine and bananas. He addressed the card to what was presumably Defossé's work address at the time: the famous Coliseum Theatre in London.

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    We want to see you posed like this!
    Fancy yourself a movie meanie? Feel like a damsel in distress?

    Find yourself a partner and enter Swann's Monsters & Maidens Photo Contest.

    In celebration of our Dec. 18 auction Monsters & Maidens: A Film Poster Collection, we're inviting fans to submit their own photo, posing as the classic movie pairing of a monster holding a distressed maiden.

    Here, Swann's Nicho Lowry and Kristina Goodstadt get in the spirit. 

    Put your own twist on it and you could win a terrifically campy horror movie poster!

    Winners will be selected by our celebrity judge: The World Champion Judah Friedlander, comedian and star of 30 Rock and the monster movie Feast.

    Submissions must be emailed by Thurs., Dec. 13 to, with winners announced Mon., Dec. 17.

    Tweet your photo and see other submissions at #monstersandmaidens.

    So grab a loved one and get snapping!

    Inspiration may be found in the catalogue.

    The winning photo will be awarded one poster of Swann's choosing. By submitting an image you agree to allow its use in Swann Galleries marketing materials. Please limit the size of your attached image to 2MB.

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  • 12/10/12--12:43: Happy Hanukkah!
  • We're loving these cookies - they're Swann blue!
    Happy Hanukkah from Swann Galleries!

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    Dr. Israel Perry, a poster dealer, collector and book publisher, began collecting movie posters for his own pleasure. As he writes in the introduction to the book about this collection, Beauty and the Beast, "after buying more than two dozen movie posters, I noticed the repetition of a distinct image in which a man, a robot or even an animal is holding a woman in his arms." Dr. Perry goes on to point out that although this trope "which reflects enduring man-to-woman relationships, which is based on love, regardless of its kind . . . [he] quickly discovered that this posture had an evil twist."

    El Vampiro, Mexico, 1957. Estimate $800 to $1,200.
    That a subconscious impulse may have originally caught Dr. Perry’s fancy is entirely possible as there is something fundamentally primal about the premise and the fantasy these images convey. Like a psychological lightning rod they attract our attention with a veiled electrical charge, eliciting within us a curious sense of forbidden glee.

    What I find most interesting is that the chord these images strike is not some marketing technique created by Hollywood art studios. While damsels in distress have been a staple since the dawn of movies, the idea of savage, barbaric men making off with women is a theme that predates the origins of film.

    H.R. Hopps's Destroy This Mad Brute / Enlist, circa 1917. Estimate $12,000 to $18,000.
    This wartime poster may have been the inspiration for King Kong.
    A brief examination shows that the theme has resonated throughout the centuries, pervading the consciousness of Western society.

    From perhaps as early as 750BC with the Rape of the Sabine Women, society has been transfixed by this concept, which has borne some exceptional artistic fruit.

    The formidable strength of its mystique is illustrated by the innumerable ways it has reoccurred over the centuries in mythology, paintings, sculpture and literature. Perhaps most prophetically--at least from the perspective of these movie posters--was French sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet's 1887 Medal of honor-winning statue entitled "Gorilla Carrying off a Woman" at the Parisian Salon.

    We might interpret it as a rape fantasy, or as a "hot stranger sex fantasy," we recognize the inherent taboo of yielding control to a greater power, and the psychological twist of the Spanish prisoner wherein the captive falls in love with their captor--clearly there is something foreboding yet appealing enough for this theme to constantly appear in popular culture.

    Tarzan / L'Homme Singe, 1932. Estimate $400 to $600.
    This auction isn't about probing into the world’s cumulative sexual psyche. Our intention wasn’t to tap into some emotional zeitgeist. This auction is first and foremost an assemblage of entertaining images--some campy, some disturbing, some thrilling--all quite effective at selling their product.

    That they may tickle our fancy on a baser level is an added bonus.   

    Africa Excitation, 1970. Estimate $800 to $1,200.

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  • 12/17/12--08:54: We Have a Winner!
  • We received some wonderful submissions to our Monsters & Maidens Photo Contest--and we are pleased to announce that our celebrity judge, Judah Friedlander, has chosen a winner! Morgane Delmas of Paris, France, submitted a terrific version of Le Colosse de New York, which our judge said looked the most like a real poster. Indeed, it was based on one of the posters in tomorrow's auction.

    A close runner up was Alan Rowe Kelly's collaboration with Bart Mastronardi, It Came from Indie Horror.

    A round up of our other favorites--including submissions by Swann friends and family--are below. Thank you to everyone who sent us their images!

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    The last three months of 2012 saw several stellar book auctions at Swann. On October 11, a sale of Art, Press & Illustrated Books resulted in a record price for Gustav Klimt's only monograph, Das Werk von Gustav Klimt. Two weeks later, the October 23 auction of Aldine Imprints & Early Printed Books from the Library of Kenneth Rapoport became Swann's highest-grossing early printed books sale to date. The top lot, an Aldine edition of Claudius Galenus's Librorum pars prima[-quinta], Venice, 1525, brought $48,000.

    Claudius Galenus, Librorum pars prima[-quinta], first edition in the original Greek, Venice, 1525.
    Two items tied for top lot in Swann's November 20 auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature. An inscribed first edition of Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons1918, sold for an auction record of $16,800, as did Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, first edition, 1920. Other top lots in the sale were first editions of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960 and John Steinbeck's first book, Cup of Gold, 1929. They brought $15,600 and $14,400, respectively.
    Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons, inscribed first edition, 1918.
    Among Autographs offered November 29, a postcard from Pablo Picasso to conductor Henri Defossé took the top spot, selling for $27,600, an auction record for a postcard from Picasso. Signed "Olga et Picasso" and with a small drawing of a holiday feast, the card offered New Year's greetings in December, 1919.
    Pablo Picasso, Autograph Postcard Signed "Olga et Picasso," Paris, 2 December 1919.
    Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Historical Prints, Ephemera, auctioned December 6th, featured a collection relating to the early mapping of Japan and Asia, saw particularly strong prices for maps of China. However, the top lot of the sale was John Gould & Richard Bowdler Sharpe's Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands, volumes 2-5, first edition, London, 1875-88. The beautifully illustrated ornithological tomes brought $33,600.

    John Gould & Richard Bowdler Sharpe, Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands,
    vols 2-5, first edition, London, 1875-88.

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    The 2013 Swann auction schedule starts earlier than usual this year, and two auctions of drawings and original art have us abuzz with previews and sales in January.

    Michael Hague, The Boy and the Velveteen Rabbit, watercolor illustration, 1983. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.
    Today, the preview for a sale of 20th Century Illustration: Original Art / Books opened. It features Maurice Sendak prominently among dozens of other well-loved artists. Illustrations by Ludwig Bemelmans, Al Hirschfeld, Beatrix Potter, Charles Schulz and Dr. Seuss are all featured in the sale, as are works from Walt Disney Studios, including animation stills and early drawings of Goofy, Mickey Mouse and The Aristocats, among many others.
    Edward Sorel, Obama as Gulliver, pen, ink and watercolor, published
    in Vanity Fair September 2010. Estimate $1,500 to $2,000.
    A number of drawings, sketches and watercolors in the sale remind us of classic figures from childhood: Eloise, Orlando the Marmalade Cat, The Velveteen Rabbit, Gandalf and Dorothy. Works like a James Marshall cartoon of a fox contemplating middle-age and Edward Sorel's Obama as Gulliverare more wry or political, and reflect a very adult sense of humor.
    Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Mars and Venus, brush and ink, wash and pencil.
    Estimate $15,000 to $20,000.
    On January 29th, Swann will hold an auction of Old Master Drawings, the first sale of this material held at Swann in six years. Organized by country of origin, the catalogue for the exhibition and auction features Italian, Dutch, French, German and English drawings, watercolors and paintings. As in the illustration sale, storytelling is alive and well in these drawings. They depict a plethora of subjects, from lively interior scenes to dragons, biblical and mythological figures.
    François Boucher, Two Satyrs, chalk drawing, circa 1740s.
    Estimate $12,000 to $18,000.
    Among highlights are two ink drawings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Mars and Venus and The Holy Family with Two Saints, François Boucher's Two Satyrs, a study for two figures in a tapestry of Neptune Rescuing Ameymone circa 1740s, and a pen and ink drawing attributed to Joseph M.W. Turner, A Wreck near Pembroke Castle.

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    Exciting news from Swann's Prints & Drawings Department: A watercolor in our upcoming Old Master Drawings auction that was catalogued as from the Circle of Joseph M.W. Turner has now been revealed to be, in all likelihood, a Turner original.

    The watercolor, From Ehrenbreitstein, is quite likely an original work by Turner himself, according to David Hill, Harewood Professor of Fine Art at the University of Leeds and a scholar of Turner. Professor Hill explained that the style, handling, size and quality of detail all seem to indicate that the work is an untraced original—and, potentially, a significant discovery. 

    Turner would have painted this work on the spot during his tour of the Rhine in 1817.  It is one of a series of 50 that the artist sold to his Yorkshire patron Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall. The group was dispersed in various sales from Farnley after 1890 and examples are now in collections around the world.

    The current presale estimate is $1,000 to $1,500.

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    This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the famed 1913 Armory Show. The seminal show was originally held in the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington & 25th Street, just across the street from Swann's current location, and is noted for including works of Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism–most memorably Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and Paul Cézanne’s Hill of the Poor (View of the Domaine Saint Joseph). A truly groundbreaking exhibit, the Armory Show influenced a new generation of American artists and collectors to create an independent visual language.
    The original poster for the 1913 Armory Show.
    In conjunction with the centennial, Swann will auction works by the artists featured in the 1913 show in October 2013. We are currently accepting quality consignments of works by Archipenko, Bellows, Bluemner, Cassatt, Cézanne, Degas, Delacroix, Duchamp, Gauguin, Glackens, van Gogh, Goya, Hassam, Hopper, Léger, Luks, Manet, Matisse, Munch, Picasso, Pissarro, Prendergast, Redon, Renoir, Seurat, Sloan, Stella, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vallotton, Villon, Vuillard, Whistler and Zorach, and others in the historical exhibition that introduced New York City and America to Modern Art. 

    Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase
    The deadline to consign is July 15, 2013. For complimentary estimates, contact Todd Weyman, Director, Prints & Drawings, at 

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    Set of 48 proof plates of illustrations from Charlotte’s Web, illustrations by Garth Williams,
    watercolored by  Rosemary Wells for the 50th Anniversary edition, signed by Wells, New York, 2002.
    Swann's January 24 auction of 20th Century Illustration featured numerous recognizable childhood images, including a collection of Maurice Sendak books and original art, as well as works by Ludwig Bemelmans, Edward Gorey, Hillary Knight, Walt Disney Studios and many others. The top lot was a set of 48 proof plates of illustrations from Charlotte's Web, made to commemorate the 50th Anniversary edition of E.B. White's classic. Signed by Rosemary Wells, who watercolored Garth Williams's original illustrations for the special edition, the set brought $28,800.
    Charles M Schulz, Peanuts, original three-tiered comic strip, 1953.
    Sold January 24, 2013 for $22,800.
    Also among top lots was an original three-tiered comic strip by Charles Schulz for Peanuts, dated March 1953, which features Charlie Brown and Patty listening to some old records and wondering what a "rocking chair" might be. A watercolor by Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Geisel) of A Pair of Llamas in Peru, inspired by his trips to South America, brought $21,600.
    Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, first edition,
    signed & inscribed with a drawing, New York, 1963.
    A first edition of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are was the top book in the sale, realizing a price of $18,000. The copy was signed and inscribed by Sendak to Reed Orenstein with a drawing of one of his "wild things" and the note "Dear Reed - This certainly looks like a first Edition - it has all the wrong colors in the right places!" 

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    Swann Galleries' February 26 auction of Fine Photographs features several early photographic albums filled with images of Asia that come from the Estate of Fong Chow.

    Chow (1923-2012) was a renowned ceramicist whoearned a Master's Degree in Ceramics from Alfred University in New York. He was named chief designer for Glidden Pottery, the American equivalent of stoneware known as Cizhou ware in China. Soon after, he was hired as a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he worked for 25 years.
    During his tenure, Chow was responsible for the installation of Chinese ceramics and two Chinese Buddhist sculpture galleries. He acquired for the museum important Chinese and Japanese paintings, Korean ceramics and Indian sculptures. 

    He was also a photographer and collector of photographs. Among the items from his estate are an important travel album formerly belonging to William Williams containing a total of 85 photographs of Japan, China, India and Egypt by Felice Beato and others, 1870s; an album with more than 95 photographs of Japan, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Malta, Italy and Pt. Said, including panoramas, mid 1870s; and a mini-collection of 78 rare carte-de-visite portraits in en plein air or studio settings by various photographers and subjects including street tradesmen, religious figures, women and mandarin officials in locations throughout China, including Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Soochow,  1860s-1870s.

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    Beauford Delaney's Portrait of a Young Musician,
    part of the Blues for Smoke exhibition.
    A new exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art called Blues for Smoke presents a selection of work by American artists, inspired by the Blues. In response to the exhibition's sprawling theme, Holland Cotter of The New York Times writes: "Blues isn’t a thing; it’s a set of feelings, a state of mind, maybe a state of grace. In origin it’s African-American, developing with gospel and jazz, and folding into R&B, funk and hip-hop. But it has long since become a transethnic phenomenon bigger than music, an enveloping aesthetic that includes art."
    William T. Williams's Up Balls, acrylic on canvas, 1971.
    Estimate $75,000 to $100,000. At auction February 14.
    The exhibition prominently features African-American artists, though not exclusively, and includes artists that followers of Swann's African-American Fine Art department will know well: Beauford Delaney, William T. Williams, Barkley Hendricks, Romare Bearden and Kara Walker, to name a few, and well-known contemporary figures like Jean-Michel Basquiat, William Eggleston and Mark Morrisroe. It is open until April 28, 2013. A full list of the artists in the exhibition is available on the blog for MOCA in LA, where the show was conceived and launched in 2012.
    Romare Bearden, Homage to Louie and Duke, offset color lithograph, circa 1975.
    Estimate $3,000 to $5,000. At auction February 14.
    The preview for our African-American Fine Art auction opens tomorrow, February 9, and is open next week Monday through Wednesday as well as Thursday morning. 

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    Hungarian-born photographer André Kertesz’s relocation to Paris in 1925 exposed him to a community of avant-garde painters and photographers intent on infusing modernism’s new visual vocabulary into a range of artworks.

    Kertész had already experimented with unusual patterns and optical illusions created by various surfaces, such as water and glass spheres. His series of human distortions were a highly charged, radical interpretation of the female figure, which appears twisted and elongated due to its visual manipulation by a carnival-like mirror. 

    The series was commissioned by French humor magazine La Sourire, and reflected the unusual formal investigations associated with the surrealist idiom.

    Interestingly, Kertész’s original name for this suite of images was The Grotesques, alluding to the uncanny results: bodies depicted in ways beyond immediate recognition, and weirdly distended or bulbous. Lot 33 in Swann's upcoming auction of Fine Photographs is an elegant study that renders the model in a more familiar fashion, emphasizing the attentuated form of the modern woman.

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