Classic Photographs
Online Auction: 21 September–1 October 2020 • 2:00 PM EDT • New York

Classic Photographs 21 September–1 October 2020 • 2:00 PM EDT • New York


Sotheby’s Fall auction in New York features iconic photographs by artists synonymous with the medium. Fine examples by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, Frederick Sommer, and Robert Frank will be offered alongside notable discoveries by photographers rarely found at auction, including Charles Marville, Edgar Degas, and Cami Stone. Online bidding will be open from September 21–October 1, with a pre-sale exhibition by appointment at Sotheby’s New York, September 26–30. Please contact the Photographs Department for more information about lots in the sale or bidding assistance.

Politics and American Activism

In the 20th century, no medium has captured the expression of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – which safeguards the freedom of religion, the right to free speech, and the ability to assemble peacefully – as vividly as photography. Powerful images that document mid-20th century political tumult and protests include Danny Lyons’ pictures of protesters and activists; Charles Moore’s documentation of Martin Luther King, Jr., being arrested; and Marc Riboud’s poignant image of a young woman offering a flower to National Guard soldiers during the March on the Pentagon in 1967.

The Nude

Explorations of the human form in photography include, among others, Helmut Newton’s playful portrait of Charlotte Rampling; Robert Mapplethorpe’s sculptural, deconstructed nudes of Lisa Marie and Derrick Cross; and Harry Callahan’s intimate portrait of his wife Eleanor, leaning against a radiator.

The Ginny Williams Collection

Sotheby’s is honored to present the next chapter of The Ginny Williams Collection, a series of sales that began with record-shattering auctions in New York this past June and July and our photo sale. A pioneering collector and lifelong patron of the arts, Ginny was a dynamic force in the art market for more than three decades, passionately collecting more than 1,000 photographs by the time of her passing. As a champion of women artists, she collected works by Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, and Julia Margaret Cameron, all featured in this sale. Also included are vivid color works by Ernst Haas, with whom Ginny studied photography, and mid-century American landscapes by William Christenberry.

Abstractions in Nature

Still Life

No artistic genre is as universal and enduring as the still life. Classic Photographs offers a voyage through the possibilities of the still life as interpreted by 20th century photography giants Robert Mapplethorpe, Irving Penn, and Edward Weston, and others.


From Frederick Sommer’s entrancing portrait of his young neighbor, to Irving Penn’s image of a Cuzco woman against his trademark cloth backdrop, Classic Photographs puts forth a widely diverse array of portraits. While some might like to experience Martha Graham’s modern dance masterpiece through Barbara Morgan’s snapshot, others might prefer a glimpse into life among the impressionists in Belle Epoque Paris through Edgar Degas’ portraits.

FOCUS: Ansel Adams

This diverse offering of photographs by Ansel Adams brings together some of his most beloved, classic images with several of his more unusual and rare Western landscapes.

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