Lot 35
  • 35

Dorothea Lange

50,000 - 70,000 USD
50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Dorothea Lange
  • Migratory Cotton Worker, Eloy, Arizona
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 10½ by 13 3/8  in. (26.5 by 34 cm.)
the number '400' in pencil on the reverse, framed, Buhl Collection and Guggenheim Museum exhibition labels on the reverse, 1940, printing date unknown


Family of the photographer

Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, 1994


New York, Guggenheim Museum, Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection, June - September 2004, and 4 other international venues through 2007 (see Appendix 1)

Palm Beach Photographic Centre, In Good Hands: Selected Works from the Buhl Collection, March 2011


Jennifer Blessing, Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection (Guggenheim Foundation, 2004), pp. 43 and 227 (this print)

John Szarkowski, Dorothea Lange (The Museum of Modern Art, 1966), p. 28

Therese Thau Heyman, Celebrating a Collection: The Work of Dorothea Lange (The Oakland Museum, 1978), p. 47

Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime (Aperture, 1982), cover and p. 122

Therese Thau Heyman, Sandra S. Phillips, and John Szarkowski, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1994), pl. 32

Keith F. Davis, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange (Kansas City, 1995), p. 55

Dorothea Lange: The Human Face (Paris, 1998), front cover, frontispiece, and p. 49

Pierre Borhan, Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer (Boston, 2002), p. 135 and 189

Elizabeth Partridge, ed., Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life (Washington, D. C., 1994), p. 82

John Szarkowski, Photography Until Now (The Museum of Modern Art, 1989), p. 217

Catalogue Note

In February of 1940, shortly after her job with the Farm Security Administration ended, Dorothea Lange was appointed Head Photographer for the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE), a division of the Department of Agriculture.  Lange took a number of trips through California and Arizona for the BAE, documenting life in agricultural communities.  Although the position lasted less than a year, it resulted in approximately 200 negatives, including one for the photograph offered here.

This photograph shows a migrant cotton picker in the dusty town of Eloy, as he pauses at the cotton scale.  An agricultural town in southern Arizona, Eloy was one of the many stops on the road for the migratory worker during the Great Depression.  Lange referred to it as a 'raw cotton town.'  Her caption for the image underscores the hard life of the cotton picker:  'Resting at cotton wagon before returning to work in the field.  He has been picking cotton all day.  A good picker earns about two dollars a day working, at this time of year, about ten hours’ (The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, p. 55). 

An examination of the original negative in the collection of the Oakland Museum shows that the photograph presented here was cropped substantially by Lange from a larger view.  As with Rodchenko’s portrait of his mother (Lot 16), the tight cropping, focusing on the face and hand, creates more impact, while diminishing none of the sitter’s humanity.