View full screen - View 1 of Lot 149. WALKER EVANS | FLOYD BURROUGHS, A COTTON SHARECROPPER, HALE COUNTY, ALABAMA.
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WALKER EVANS | FLOYD BURROUGHS, A COTTON SHARECROPPER, HALE COUNTY, ALABAMA

WALKER EVANS | FLOYD BURROUGHS, A COTTON SHARECROPPER, HALE COUNTY, ALABAMA

WALKER EVANS | FLOYD BURROUGHS, A COTTON SHARECROPPER, HALE COUNTY, ALABAMA

WALKER EVANS

1903-1975

FLOYD BURROUGHS, A COTTON SHARECROPPER, HALE COUNTY, ALABAMA


flush-mounted, the Lunn Gallery stamp, numbers 'II' and '83' in pencil, on the reverse, 1936 (Keller 531)

9¼ by 7 in. (23.5 by 17.8 cm.)

This early, warm-toned print features a wide range of tones including creamy-white highlights and rich dark areas. It delivers remarkable and intricate detail; this is particularly apparent in the sitter's clothing, from the threadbare fabric of his shirt to the denim of his overalls, as well as in his facial features, from his stubble and wrinkles to reflections in his pupils.


This print, trimmed to the image and flush-mounted, is in generally very good condition. When examined in raking light, the following are visible: very thin, minor craquelure, likely a result of mounting, and mostly confined to the lower portion; faint hairline scratches; a few tiny impressions; a circular impression in the lower right quadrant; and a faint patina of silvering in the darkest areas of the print. There is minor edge-wear with occasional chipping. None of the aforementioned detracts in any way from the overall fine appearance of this print.


Yellowed adhesive remnants and abrasions on the reverse of the mount suggest a previous secondary mount. 'E' (circled) is written in an unidentified hand in pencil.


When examined under ultraviolet light, this print does not appear to fluoresce.


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.

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

Private collection

By descent to the present owner

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Houghton Mifflin Company reprint of the 1941 original, 1988), dust jacket and unpaginated

John Szarkowski, Walker Evans (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1971), p. 83

Walker Evans: Photographs for the Farm Security Administration, 1935-1938 (New York, 1973), pl. 249

Walker Evans: First and Last (New York, 1978), p. 72

John T. Hill, Walker Evans at Work (New York, 1982), p. 126

Thomas W. Southall, Of Time & Place: Walker Evans and William Christenberry (Amon Carter Museum and University of New Mexico Press, 1990), p. 35

Gilles Mora and John T. Hill, Walker Evans: The Hungry Eye (New York, 1993), p. 202

Maria Morris Hambourg, Jeff L. Rosenheim, Douglas Eklund, and Mia Fineman, Walker Evans (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000), pl. 88 

John T. Hill, Walker Evans: Lyric Documentary - Selections from Evans' Work for the U. S. Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration, 1935-1937 (Göttingen, 2006), p. 178

Roy Emerson Stryker and Nancy Wood, In This Proud Land: America 1935-1943 as seen in the FSA Photographs (Greenwich, 1973), p. 90

Emma Dexter and Thomas Weski, eds., Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph (London: Tate Modern, 2003), p. 132

This iconic image of the Alabama farmer Floyd Burroughs illustrates both the first edition of Walker Evans’ and James Agee’s landmark publication Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, published in 1941, as well as a second edition printed in 1960. This classic volume describes, in words and photographs, the daily lives of the families of three tenant farmers—Burroughs, Frank Tingle, and Bud Fields—who were loosely related cotton farmers, each working land adjacent to one another in Hale County, Alabama. In the book, this portrait of Floyd Burroughs is juxtaposed with that of his wife, Allie Mae (see Lot 152), and together they are the two definitive images in this important volume.


Let Us Now Praise Famous Men began with an assignment for Fortune magazine. During the hardest years of the Depression, the periodical ran numerous reports on the life and circumstance of the working class. For the fourth article in the series, Agee was assigned to document the lives of Southern cotton tenant farmers. Excited by the prospect of returning to his native south, Agee took the assignment and arranged for Evans to accompany as photographer. The article was submitted to Fortune in the fall of 1936 and promptly rejected by the editors. Not to be discouraged, Evans sought a publisher while Agee expanded the text into a book-length manuscript. After five years, Houghton Mifflin published the book and, while it garnered critical success, it achieved only lackluster sales in an environment now more concerned with World War II than the travails of the Depression. It was not until after Agee’s death in 1955, and a posthumously-awarded Pulitzer Prize for his novel A Death in the Family, that Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was republished and celebrated for its detailed, unflinching documentation of Southern life during the Depression.


Early prints of this image are rare and seldom appear at auction. A print from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art sold in these rooms on 15 February 2006.