Lot 33
  • 33

DIANE ARBUS | 'Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N. Y. C.'

70,000 - 100,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Diane Arbus
  • 'Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N. Y. C.'
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 14 3/4  by 15 in. (37.5 by 38 cm.)
signed, titled, dated, and editioned '72/75' by Doon Arbus, the photographer's daughter, in ink and with the 'A Diane Arbus Photograph' and reproduction rights stamp on the reverse, framed, exhibition labels on the reverse, 1962, printed posthumously by Neil Selkirk


Witkin Gallery, New York, 1976 Private collection

Sotheby's New York, 11 October 2005, Sale 8115, Lot 180


NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Diane Arbus, November 2012 - June 2013 Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Art, Masterpiece of the Month, May - June 2014


Diane Arbus (Aperture, 1972), unpaginated Diane Arbus: Revelations (New York, 2003)pp. 104-5, 164, and 208

Diane Arbus: In the Beginning (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016), p. 257

James L. Enyeart, Language of Light: A Survey of the Photography Collection of the University of Kansas Museum of Art (Lawrence, 1974), pl. 8 

The Graham Nash Collection (Los Angeles, 1978), p. 30

Photography/Venice '79 (New York, 1979), p. 336

Alfred Appel, Jr., Signs of Life (New York, 1983), p. 84

Jonathan Green, American Photography: A Critical History 1945 to the Present (New York, 1984), p. 119

Peter Turner, ed., American Images: Photography 1945-1980 (London: Barbican Art Gallery, 1985), p. 154

Peter Galassi, American Photography 1890-1965 from The Museum of Modern Art (New York, 1995), p. 243

Catalogue Note

The photograph offered here, with its unforgettable, grenade-clutching boy, was taken by Arbus in New York’s Central Park in the spring or summer months of 1962.  It was around this time that Arbus stopped using her 35mm cameras in favor of a 2 ¼ twin-lens Rolleiflex.  Among the first of Arbus’s images made with the Rolleiflex, its characteristic square format would become her signature style in the years to come.  Arbus’s best images demonstrate the photographer’s uncanny ability to interact and empathize with her sitters, and in this photograph Arbus has entered the complex and brilliant world of the child with a vengeance.  This iconic photograph was one of seven negatives Arbus made of the same young boy mugging for the camera.  Its subject was seven year-old Colin Wood, whose privileged upbringing on the Upper East Side was offset by his parents’ impending divorce.  Arbus’s pick from the contact sheet, translated into the large-format photograph offered here, is the most interesting, perverse, and emotionally resonant of the images from that sitting: the child as anarchist, fed up with the things and people around him, ready to lob his five-and-dime grenade and escape. 

‘Giving a camera to Diane is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.’ – Norman Mailer