LOTS 69 – 97

Sotheby’s is pleased to offer, in the following 29 lots, a selection of photographs from the collection of Spencer and Prudence Hayward White Stone. For nearly half a century, the Stones have built a broad collection of works by important photographers: from the beginning of the medium, as represented by William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Eugène Atget, to iconic works from the 20th century by Edward Weston, Irving Penn, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus, among others.


Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1937, Spencer Stone grew up surrounded by art. His father, Ruskin Stone, was an accomplished painter who studied at The Art Institute of Chicago and specialized in portraiture. ‘He would use colors in a way that few artists can ever do. The smell of oil paint was always present. I would watch my father sketch, and he would give my brother and me lessons. We spent weekends taking classes and racing through the galleries of The Toledo Museum of Art,’ says Stone, now a benefactor of the museum.

In the late 1960s, Stone purchased his first photographs, by Edward Weston, from Tom Halsted, the pioneering photographs dealer in Birmingham, Michigan. 'Tom was an early proponent of the art. It was an amazing time because the recognition of photography as a major, collectible art form was still emerging.'

While I’d already collected contemporary paintings, prints, and lithographs, all of a sudden I got very excited about photography. By the mid-1970s, I was hooked. I went to auctions in New York, met dealers, and kept buying along the way, building my collection.

Spencer Stone

Stone also sought out many of the most influential  people in the field—among them Ansel Adams, with whom he and Prudy spent an afternoon in Carmel and whose work is represented prominently in the collection, and John Szarkowski, the curator of photography at The Museum of Modern Art.

Regarding his philosophy as a collector, Stone has said, ‘I’m a visual person. I look at things in an artistic way. I’m sensitive to proportion, balance, color, composition, texture—all the elements that are essential to photography. I think the collection I’ve built indicates that I’m interested in the beginnings of photography and the aesthetics of printing. I’m dedicated to identifying those key images that represent a photographer’s best work. Of course, that’s a subjective assessment, but my goal has been to pick what I consider the best available work from a photographer. My search begins and ends with the image.’

Sotheby’s is indebted to George W. Stone, National Geographic editor-at-large and son of Spencer and Prudy Stone, for this information.


01 April 2015 | New York