Lot 5
  • 5

Robert Frank

20,000 - 30,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Robert Frank
  • Inscribed 98 5 in grease pencil on the image; with credit, title, and annotations in pencil, ink, and crayon and a LIFE use stamp on the reverse
  • Gelatin silver print, flush-mounted
  • 11 1/4 x 7 1/8 inches
numerical notation '98 5' in grease pencil on the image, flush-mounted, credit in pencil, caption in ink, numbers and annotations in pencil and crayon and with the LIFE use stamp on the reverse, framed, 1949, printed no later than 1951


Time Inc. Picture Collection

Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, 2007


'Speaking of Pictures: A Photographer in Paris Finds Chairs Everywhere,' LIFE, 21 May 1951, p. 26 (this print)

Ute Eskildsen, Robert Frank: Paris (Göttingen, 2008), unpaginated

Robert Frank, The Lines of My Hand (New York, 1989), unpaginated

Sarah Greenough and Philip Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out (Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1994), p. 64

Sarah Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans (Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 2009), p. 68

Catalogue Note

Chair, Paris, is an image that enjoyed significant attention early in Robert Frank’s career. It was among the first photographs by Frank purchased by The Museum of Modern Art in 1950, along with Street Line, New York (34th Street) (see Lot 9); White Tower on 14th Street, New York; and Peru (heads in a landscape)These were shown in MoMA's 1950 exhibition, 51 American Photographers, along with new works by Harry Callahan, Irving Penn, and Frederick Sommer, among others.  In 1951, Chair, Paris, was included in the Museum's Abstraction in Photography exhibition, alongside photographs by Louis Faurer and Aaron Siskind.

The present image is one of an expressive series of photographs of chairs made by Frank in Paris in 1949-50. The images he made there as a young photographer are imbued with affection for the city’s streets, cafés, and atmosphere. The print offered here is the very print that was published in the 21 May 1951 issue of LIFE magazine, the lead image among 11 photographs by Frank reproduced over three pages with the title ‘Speaking of Pictures: A Photographer in Paris Finds Chairs Everywhere.’  This was the first appearance of Frank’s pictures in LIFE.  While his commercial work had been published regularly in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Junior Bazaar, and other periodicals since 1947, the 1951 LIFE story represented the debut of his photographs in a general-audience publication with wide distribution.

The text accompanying the Chairs story reads,

‘When Robert Frank, a 26-year-old Swiss photographer, was in Paris a year and a half ago, he set out to photograph the sights of the city.  On the way from his studio he walked through the Luxembourg gardens where he was attracted by the endless array of chairs that filled the park.  Some were in tidy rows along the paths and fountains, others clustered under shady trees while here and there a single chair sat quietly by itself.  “They all seemed to be waiting for something,” says Frank.  Soon he began to notice chairs all over Paris and wherever he went he photographed them—along the Champs Elysées, under the café awnings, beside the sailboat ponds.  When he left for New York he took with him more than 100 photographs of chairs, which to him symbolize the leisurely, relaxed way of life in Paris.  “In New York,” he says regretfully, “one cannot afford the time to relax in a chair.  Besides,” he added, “you could not have such an institution.  The people would steal the chairs.”’