Lot 264
  • 264

Diane Arbus

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Diane Arbus
  • 'a family on the lawn one sunday in westchester, n. y.'
signed, titled, and dated by the photographer in ink on the reverse, flush-mounted, titled and dated in an unidentified hand in pencil on the reverse, matted, 1968


Acquired by the present owners from the Art Lending Service, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1969


Other prints of this image:

Diane Arbus (Aperture, 1972, in conjunction with the 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 and Mike Weaver, 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


This outstanding early print is in generally excellent condition. There is evidence of minor rippling of the paper in the lower margin at the edge, and there is a small crease at the left margin edge that is likely a result of mounting. When purchased by the owners, the print was flush-mounted to board and remains so today. When originally preparing prints for her 'Box of Ten' portfolio, Arbus bemoaned the rippling of her prints. This print was likely flush-mounted to alleviate the ripples for exhibition in the lucite box frame in which this photograph was displayed at MoMA. The signature, title, and date by Arbus are visible through the mount when viewed against a strong light. An image of her writing, visible through the mount on the back of the print, is available upon request.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

When selecting images for what would be her only portfolio, A Box of Ten Photographs, Arbus chose this now-iconic image, along with nine other photographs which she felt served as a statement of her achievement in photography. A Family on the Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, N. Y. 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, 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, as follows, was taken from Arbus's own description of the picture:

'Nat and June Tarnopol . . . 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. Tarnopol 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). 

The present owners of this print of A Family On the Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, N. Y.  were Museum of Modern Art employees when they purchased it from a MoMA Art Lending Service exhibition, Photographs for Collectors, in December 1969. The show of nineteenth and twentieth century photographs was curated by John Szarkowski and the Department of Photography. Among other photographers represented were Richard Avedon, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Duane Michals, and Garry Winogrand. The checklist indicates that the prints offered came not only directly from the artists, as did this print, but also from pioneering photography gallerists Lee Witkin and Robert Schoelkopf.

The Art Lending Service was launched in 1951 by the Junior Council of The Museum of Modern Art as a forum to educate young collectors about contemporary art.  In addition to renting artworks to MoMA members, the ALS also organized exhibitions from which members could purchase works.  Initially, small groups of exceptional works were exhibited, but in the early 1960s, the exhibitions became themed affairs organized by MoMA curators, highlighting works by both emerging and established artists.  John Szarkowski, Pierre Apraxine, and Grace Mayer were among the curators making the selections for these exhibitions.  Sales of photographs from the ALS began in 1960.  The ALS functioned successfully for more than thirty years and served as a model for other institutions. It ceased operations in 1982.

Arbus's long history with The Museum of Modern Art began in 1946 with a visit to acting Photography Curator Nancy Newhall with her husband and photographic colleague, Allan Arbus, to show their work.  Edward Steichen included one of their photographs in his landmark 1955 exhibition, Family of Man.  John Szarkowski met Arbus shortly after his arrival at MoMA in 1962, and the two regularly met and corresponded. MoMA was the first museum, in 1964, to acquire Arbus photographs for its collection, and in 1967, the groundbreaking New Documents show featured thirty of her photographs, along with those by Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. MoMA's Art Lending Service became one of the few outlets available to Arbus to sell her work.

Early prints of this image are scarce. This is believed to be the fifth early print of this image to be offered at auction, and only the second signed by Arbus.