09/16/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/16/2021 09:20
Now try to imagine a world in which the only image of a person or place was an artist's interpretation - a painting, print or sculpture. That was the world before the invention of photography in 1839, and not long after that photographers were sending home images of people and places half a world away. Photography shrank the universe, making the unimaginable tangible, the faraway front and center.
Heritage Auctions' In Focus: 19th Century Photographs auction, now open for bidding and closing Sept. 28, revisits that pivotal moment in human history. Indeed, the earliest lot in this sale is A Fruit Piece, taken in 1845 by one of the co-inventors of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot. This self-explanatory photo is a landmark moment given its inclusion in The Pencil of Nature, the very first photo-illustrated publication. And the very print for sale in this auction was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1989.
Early photographs of the American West are represented here by an impressive 18-by-54-inch albumen print of Panorama of Marshall Pass and Mt. Ouray, circa 1890, taken by William Henry Jackson, who literally spent a lifetime in photography (until his death at 99). Said Jackson, who briefly had a photography studio with his brother, 'Portrait photography never had any charms for me, so I sought my subjects from the house-tops, and finally from the hill-tops and about the surrounding country; the taste strengthening as my successes became greater in proportion to the failures.' From those sojourns, here, too, is Jackson's Veta Pass, Across the Continent (from Scenes Along the New Trunk Line of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, in Colorado and Utah), circa 1881.
No early photography auction would be complete without the man whose photos made the Wisconsin Dells a tourist destination: Henry Hamilton Bennett, represented in this sale by - what else? - The Dells, Wisconsin, taken circa 1890.
The 19th century was a time of great invention and experimentation in different photographic processes, such as this full-plate Daguerreotype of a distinguished looking group of Californians or this sixth-plate Ambrotype of Abraham Lincoln taken in 1860 or this example of the first commercially successful color process, an Autochrome of a Middle Eastern Woman Holding Flowers snapped around 1910.
And almost since its inception, photography was used to document places and events such as this incredible train crash at the Gare Montparnasse in Paris in 1895 or the Ruined Railroad Roundhouse in Atlanta after Sherman's March to the Sea in 1866. Here, too, is an exhaustive look at a natural wonder that would have been unthinkable only a few years earlier - from 1885, an album of views of New Zealand including the Pink and White Terraces, the largest silica deposits on earth that were destroyed by a volcanic eruption just one year later.
This auction includes a look from the past that propelled photography into the future courtesy Eugene Atget, a Parisian street photographer whose modernist style was very influential to 20th century photographs. is represented here by L'Oranger (with Shadow of Photographer and His Camera), circa 1890. One might even say it's the first selfie, as evidenced by Atget's shadow in the image.
How far we've come. And how much we've yet to learn from these extraordinary images of yesterday.
Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world's largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
Heritage also enjoys the highest online traffic and dollar volume of any auction house on earth (source: SimilarWeb and Hiscox Report). The Internet's most popular auction-house website, HA.com, has more than 1,500,000 registered bidder-members and searchable free archives of five million past auction records with prices realized, descriptions and enlargeable photos. Reproduction rights routinely granted to media for photo credit.
Robert Wilonsky, Communications Director
214-409-1887; [email protected]