Lot 185
  • 185

Diane Arbus 1926-1971

bidding is closed


  • Diane Arbus
  • 'a family on their lawn one sunday in westchester, n. y.'
signed, titled, and dated by the photographer in pencil and inscribed 'Dear Dr. Klein, Thanks for that good and generous phone conversation,' initialed, and the title annotated 'one Sunday' by her in ink on the reverse, matted, 1968


Gift of the photographer to the present owner, circa 1968-69


Other prints of this image:

Diane Arbus (Aperture, 1972, in conjunction with retrospective exhibition originating at The Museum of Modern Art, New York), unpaginated

Diane Arbus: Revelations (New York, 2003, in conjunction with the exhibition originating at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), p. 329

Thomas W. Southall, Diane Arbus Magazine Work (Aperture, 1984, in conjunction with the exhibition originating at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas), pp. 106-7

Carroll T. Hartwell, The Making of a Collection: Photographs from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Aperture, 1984), p. 92

Daniel Wolf, The Art of Photography, 1839-1989 (Yale University Press, New Haven,1989, in conjunction with the exhibition originating at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), pl. 329

The Graham Nash Collection (Los Angeles: The Nash Press, 1978), p. 13

Catalogue Note

The present photograph was a gift from Arbus to a psychotherapist, the ‘Dr. Klein’ of Arbus’s inscription, who had spoken with her by telephone in the later 1960s.  Dr. Klein has described his encounter with Arbus as follows:

‘Among my patients there was a young man who was not a professional photographer, but someone who had a strong interest in photography.  He told me about Diane Arbus, who was a friend of his.  He described her photography and would talk about evenings spent at her place, with Arbus and her then-young daughter.  He repeatedly expressed concern about the severity of her depression and talked to her about having a consultation with me.  She was interested in what he told her about his own work with me, but very resistant to actually arranging to see me. 

‘One evening—I believe it was in 1968 or 1969--I received a call from her in the evening, at my home.  We spent about an hour talking.  We discussed her recurring depression, and about my conviction that getting at the historical roots of such moods can make for real change.  I suggested that she could come for a consultation and see how she felt about the work.  I also told her that I could refer her to a colleague if she preferred. She was quite engaged in the conversation, but clearly reluctant to make a move.  About two weeks after our phone call, I received the photograph in the mail.

‘I never spoke with her again.  I learned of her suicide about a year, or a year and a half, later.’

Dr. Klein’s approximation of the year of his telephone conversation with Arbus coincides with her initial visits to another psychotherapist, Dr. Helen Boigon, who, like Dr. Klein, had been recommended to Arbus by a friend (cf. Revelations, p. 207 and p. 341, n. 445).  Arbus began seeing Dr. Boigon in September 1969 and continued with Boigon until her (Arbus’s) death in 1971.  As with Dr. Klein, Arbus presented Boigon with one of her photographs, in Boigon’s case a print of Identical Twins, Roselle, N. J.   That print was sold in these rooms in April 1998 (Sale 7112, Lot 437A).

The image offered here was first published in November 1968, in a special issue of the London Sunday Times Magazine devoted to the subject of the family. The photograph appeared on a double-page spread in the magazine, under the heading ‘Two American Families’; the facing image was Arbus’s ‘A Young Brooklyn Family Going for a Sunday Outing, N. Y. C.’ 

 The caption in the magazine, as follows, was taken from Arbus’s own description of the picture:

‘Nat and June Tarnapol . . . with Paul, aged four, one of their three children, in the garden of their home at Westchester, Connecticut.  They are an upper middle class family, Mr. Tarnapol being a successful agent and publisher in the pop music business.  I think it’s such an odd photograph, nearly like Pinter, but not quite. . . the parents seem to be dreaming the child and the child seems to be inventing them’ (quoted in Magazine Work, p. 106).