Lot 200
  • 200

BEN SHAHN AND INSLEE A. HOPPER 'Mr. Clatterbuck' (Maquette for a Photo Book on the Homesteads Resettlement Community at Flint Hill, Shenandoah Valley)

Estimate
25,000 - 35,000 USD
Sold
27,500 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Ben Shahn and Inslee A. Hopper
  • 'Mr. Clatterbuck' (Maquette for a Photo Book on the Homesteads Resettlement Community at Flint Hill, Shenandoah Valley)
  • a book maquette of gelatin silver prints
  • The photographs various sizes
a preliminary maquette for an unrealized book comprising 87 photographs, possibly ferrotyped, variously mounted, with introduction by Edward Bruce and original text by Inslee A. Hopper, typed and pasted in, 1941. 4to, comb-bound, plastic wrappers, a newspaper clipping on the first page; accompanied by miscellaneous correspondence including a facsimile of a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Edward Bruce (7)

Provenance

Edward Bruce to Inslee A. Hopper

By descent to the present owner

Exhibited

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, M. A., Ben Shahn's New York: The Photography of Modern Times, February - April 2000

Literature

Deborah Martin Kao, Laura Katzman, and Jenna Webster, Ben Shahn's New York: The Photography of Modern Times (Cambridge, M. A.: Harvard University Art Museums, 2000), p. 93

Catalogue Note

Edward (‘Ned’) Bruce was the Chief of the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A painter himself, he had always been passionate about the arts and was known for his indefatigable support of the cause: ‘Ned’s visions were large and to help artists of course, but that was just by the way, really. He wanted the American public to have access to art and art to come to the public’ (Inslee A. Hopper interview with  Robert Brown at the Archives of American Art, 28 July 1981).

Bruce spent several summers in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia painting its landscapes; during that time, he developed a fascination with one of the resettlement communities in the area. An avid admirer of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, he commissioned his employee Inslee A. Hopper and photographer Ben Shahn to create a document of the successful rehabilitation of the inhabitants of that community. Hopper had been assigned as Shahn’s supervisor on his The Meaning of Social Security mural (1940-42)  in Washington, D. C., and the two men took a break from that project to spend a week in the Shenandoah Valley, speaking to and photographing the people at the government homestead. The two then compiled a book with photographs by Shahn, text by Hopper, and design by both.  The text by Hopper is a first-person narrative told from the point of view of the homesteaders, and the images are rare examples of Shahn photographs taken after the mid-1930s.

This project was intended as praise for Roosevelt’s Resettlement Administration and proof of its effectiveness in leading ‘these people out of their troubles into a new way of life’ (introduction by Bruce). Bruce delivered the book to President Roosevelt in the hopes that he could find some funding to get it published.  World War II-related cutbacks made publication unfeasible.  The book was returned and Bruce gave it - the only copy -  back to Hopper.  In an October 1941 letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bruce (a facsimile of which accompanies this lot), the President writes: ‘So it is all that you have done to help to apply the Fine Arts to the life of the average American. I deeply hope that you will continue to be, as you say, “a sort of Peck’s Bay [stet] Boy” because, to use another simile, all of us need you as a burr under the posterior part of the American mule. I take pride in having been a very prickly burr of that variety all my life.’ It would seem that the admiration was mutual.

Shahn’s negatives from this project are in the Library of Congress. At the time of this writing, no other prints, or similar book mock-ups with photographs by Shahn, are known to exist.

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