April 3, 04:38 PM GMT
40,000 - 60,000 USD
SIX TENANT FARMERS WITHOUT FARMS, GOODLET, HARDEMAN COUNTY, TEXAS
the photographer's Resettlement Administration credit stamp and the Resettlement Administration number in an unidentified hand in pencil on the reverse, 1937
7⅛ by 9⅜ in. (18.1 by 23.8 cm.)
PhotoWest Gallery, San Diego, 1991
Sotheby's New York, 15 October 2008, Sale 8475, Lot 135
Archibald MacLeish, Land of the Free (New York, 1938), p. 5
Dorothea Lange and Paul Schuster Taylor, An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (New York, 1939), p. 77 (cropped variant)
George P. Elliott, Dorothea Lange (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1966), p. 32
James C. Anderson, ed., Roy Stryker: The Humane Propagandist, Photographic Archives (University of Louisville, 1977), p. 26
Milton Meltzer, Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life (New York, 1978), p. 218
Karin Becker Ohrn, Dorothea Lange and the Documentary Tradition (Baton Rouge, 1980), pl. 29
Andrea Fisher, Let Us Now Praise Famous Women (London, 1987), pp. 22 and 136
Therese Thau Heyman, Sandra S. Phillips, and John Szarkowski, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1994), p. 46
Sarah Hermanson Meister, Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019), p. 166
Six Tenant Farmers Without Farms exemplifies the best of Lange's Depression-era photographs from the deep South. The dignity of her subjects – young farmers who had lost their livelihood when tractors replaced horse-and-plow tilling of the land – is immortalized by Lange, who portrays them with clear compassion but no sentimentality. A cropped version of the present image was published in An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion, Dorothea Lange’s and Paul Schuster Taylor's defining 1939 volume. The culmination of five years' work in the field for the Resettlement Administration and the subsequent Farm Security Administration, the book was informed by Lange’s photographic reports sent to Washington and by the anecdotes and opinions expressed directly by the subjects. The caption for this photograph in An American Exodus reads:
ALL DISPLACED TENANT FARMERS. THE OLDEST 33.
All native Americans, none able to vote because of Texas poll tax. All on WPA. They support an average of four persons each on $22.80 a month.
"Where we gonna go?"
"How we gonna get there?"
"What we gonna do?"
"Who we gonna fight?"
"If we fight, what we gotta whip?"
North Texas. Sunday morning, June 1937
A larger, later print of this image featured prominently in the ‘Last Ditch’ section in Lange’s 1966 retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Exhibition images show it installed above A Half-hour Later, Hardman, County, Texas (a second view of the men in the present image) and two pictures to the right of Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle (see Lot 38). Lange’s deeply personal wall text read, 'I am trying here to say something about the despised, the defeated, the alienated. About death and disaster. About the wounded, the crippled, the helpless, the rootless, the dislocated. About duress and trouble. About finality. About the last ditch.'
Early prints of this image are rare. At the time of this writing, no other early print is believed to have been offered at auction.