Lot 38
  • 38

Paul Strand

300,000 - 500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Paul Strand
  • Platinum print
platinum print, signed, annotated 'Platinum print,' and dated 'Neg 1921' by the photographer and titled by Hazel Strand in pencil on the reverse, framed, 1921


Gift of the photographer and Hazel Strand to Michael E. Hoffman (1942-2001), publisher, curator, and executive director of Aperture Foundation

Acquired from the above by Aperture Foundation, 1994

Private collection, 1990s


New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Paul Strand: Rebecca, April - May 1996


Paul Strand: Rebecca (New York: Robert Miller Gallery, 1996, in conjunction with the exhibition), pl. 9 (this print)


According to Strand authority Anthony Montoya, the photograph offered here is the only print of the image extant. Strand made this photograph with his 8 x 10-inch Corona view camera, and the original negative remains in the Paul Strand Archive. This exceptional, rich platinum print is in generally excellent condition. Its lush, velvety, dark tones are punctuated by clean, bright highlights. As is typical of Strand's platinum prints from this period, a faint surface sheen is visible in raking light, suggesting that this print was coated by the photographer with wax or varnish. Very close examination reveals tiny deposits of expertly applied original retouching. There is a slight wave to the print along the upper edge, likely from the hinges. This print has thin white margins, which exhibit minor wear. There is a small loss to the tip of the upper right corner of the margin, and there is a tiny loss in the lower right margin corner. The reverse of the print is unevenly soiled and textured, suggesting that it may have previously been affixed to a mount.
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

Paul Strand began his extended study of Rebecca Salsbury in 1920, the year they met, and continued until 1932, the year before their marriage ended, producing well over 100 negatives.  Strand photographed Rebecca close-up and largely without props, contact-printing his best images in rich platinum and palladium metals.  In the expressive portrait offered here, taken the year before they married, Strand captures Rebecca against a sea of blacks punctuated only by the pearlescent button to her left.  Strand's deft handling of the photograph's light and dark values demonstrates his ability to capture a moment of intimacy on film and render it perfectly in a photographic print.

Strand and Salsbury were part of Alfred Stieglitz’s extended family of photographers, painters, and thinkers.   Georgia O’Keeffe encouraged the self-taught Salsbury in her painting, and the two frequently painted together at Stieglitz’s Lake George home.  It was there that Salsbury, taken with the way sunlight illuminated the pigments on her glass palate, was inspired to take up the difficult technique of painting on glass.  With O’Keeffe’s support, Salsbury was granted an exhibition at Opportunity Gallery in New York.  In 1932 she exhibited her work with Strand at Stieglitz’s An American Place gallery.   O’Keeffe and Salsbury made frequent trips together to Taos, New Mexico, where Salsbury ultimately settled in 1933, after she and Strand divorced.   The legendary Taos arts patron Mabel Dodge Luhan lauded Salsbury’s work in her 1947 book, Taos and Its Artists: ‘The paintings on glass by Rebecca James . . . are perhaps the most exquisite productions of any Taos artist.’

Belinda Rathbone points out that Strand's prolonged study of Rebecca stands out in the context of his work, for it is the one area where his usual objectivity gives way to a more personal approach.  'Compared with his earlier subject matter,' she writes, 'these portraits of Rebecca seem effortlessly arranged; most important, they succeed in coalescing completely his art and his intimate life . . . Never again would Strand use his art to explore the facets of an intimate relationship' (Paul Strand: Essays on His Life and Work, pp. 81-86). 

Strand was a master of the craft of platinum printing, and worked meticulously with all of the variables of the process to produce prints that met his uncompromising standards.  This might involve experimentation with different developers, the addition of bleach, or the use of a number of toning agents to impart a golden or blue/grey cast.  Strand even manipulated the temperatures of his chemistry in order to create certain effects.  Once a print met his high standards, Strand would varnish the surface to give it the subtle sheen that is visible on the print of Rebecca offered here.   It is through his attention to these many details that Strand produced prints such as this, filled with visual detail and emotional content.   

According to Strand authority Anthony Montoya, the photograph offered here is the only print of the image extant.