Black Education – Nineteenth Century

This photograph is a model of the more commonly held image of black education in the era of Emancipation and Reconstruction. Taken shortly after the end of the Civil War, the image suggests the leadership of white women and the participation of black children in educational pursuits. Recent scholarship has emphasized the contributions of black teachers (women and men), black soldiers, and black parents in supporting and leading the cause of black education.
Portrait of teacher Laura M. Towne, a founder of the Penn School, with students Dick, Maria and Amoretta. 1866

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division

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Recent Photography Sales at Auction

End of September and October generated a small listing of photographs by black photographers at auction with Swann Auction Galleries and Phillips.  Here’s a quick round-up of the results.

Swann’s October 6th African-American Art Auction
Photographs by James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) were featured at Swann Auction Galleries, October 6th sale of African-American Art.  Portraits of the Barefoot Prophet (Lot 9) and Hazel Scott (Lot 10) were sold at auction estimates, $2,860 and $ 3,250.  And a portfolio of eighteen (18) silver gelatin and sepia prints (Lot 11) sold for $ 87,500, surpassing the auction estimate of $30,000 – 50,000.  From the online catalogue: A handsome portfolio, published by Harry Lunn, Jr., with iconic images from VanDerZee’s photographic career. It includes various subjects of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as studies of Marcus Garvey, Daddy Grace, and formal family portraits.

Prentice Herman Polk (1898-1985), Lot 14, a portfolio of eleven (11) prints featuring such commonly published images as The Boss (1932), and The Pipe Smoker (1932) sold for $ 13,750.  From the online catalogue: Edition of 60 numbered copies. Each signed in ink, lower right. Signed and numbered 18/60 on the title page of the introduction. Published by South Light, Gladewater, Texas in 1981.

Lot 67, Boy and H, Harlem (Stickball) by Louis Draper (1935-2002) sold for $3,000 its low estimate.  Draper was a founding member of Kamoinge, a New York-based black photographers collective, active 1963 to the present.

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Carrie Mae Weems’ (1953-) work represented in Lots 142, Mirror, Mirror, and Lot 165, Tell me, I beseech you, when I casted my vote to you, did I cast it to the wind?, sold for $ 25,000 and $2,000 respectively.  Each realized the low estimate.

Phillips’ Photographs Evening & Day Sale, October 5 & 6 featured Roy DeCarava’s Arnette, NY, Lot 103, which sold for $ 16,250, the auction estimate.

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Recent Sales of Work by Black Photographers

Just a quick round-up of recent sales of works by black photographers that came to auction.

At the April 7, 2016 Swann Galleries auction of African-American Fine Art, Carrie Mae Weem’s Blue Black Boy was sold for $40,000 (hammer price), the low estimate for this lot.  From the Colored People series, the work consists of a triptych of three toned gelatin silver prints with text and frame, dated 1987-88.  This work is part of an edition of 3.  The artist printed a single image of this work in an edition of 5 in 1997, an example of which sold at Sotheby’s April 1, 2015 for $25,000.

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I like to see examples of artist portraits of other artists.  This portrait photograph of Maya Angelou is particularly striking and fetched an impressive sale price of $ 14,000 (hammer price), 14 times the low estimate.  The work was sold at the September 15, 2015 sale of The Art Collection of Maya Angelou at Swann Galleries.  Photographed by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, the 1993 silver print is hand colored measuring 10 x 10 1/2 inches.

Maya Angelou

American Gothic, one of Gordon Park’s most famous images, sold at Be-Hold, October 22, 2015 for $ 2,600.  The 1942 image was printed in 1991 and measures 10 x 7 1/8 inches on a 13 x 11 inch sheet.  The photograph sold above its high estimate.

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Carrie Mae Weems lecture at the National Gallery of Art

In this lecture by Carrie Mae Weems she discusses her career and body of work, spanning thirty years.  The talk took place on September 12, 2015 and is part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel lecture series at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

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