Sunday, May 22, 2022

William Henry Fox Talbot photography archive heads to auction

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Almost 200 photos by one in all historical past’s first photographers, William Henry Fox Talbot, are going beneath the hammer in New York subsequent month, providing collectors a uncommon glimpse at early Victorian Britain.

According to Sotheby’s auction home, which is dealing with the sale, the gathering is “arguably the most important lot of 19th century photographs to ever come to market.”

The photos depict indoor and out of doors scenes, spanning structure, botany and every day life within the 1840s. Talbot, an English scientist and inventor, additionally produced varied portraits of relations and pals as he experimented along with his pioneering digital camera know-how.

Offered at auction as a single lot, the gathering contains over 70 free pictures and three albums of printed photos. It additionally consists of uncommon variations of Talbot’s publication “Sun Pictures in Scotland” which paperwork his travels by way of Scotland, in addition to a number of components of his celebrated work “The Pencil of Nature.”

An 1843 image of London's Westminster Abbey.

An 1843 picture of London’s Westminster Abbey. Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s

Some of the photographer’s best-known photos are among the many 191 up on the market, together with a shot displaying the now-famous London monument, Nelson’s Column, beneath building in 1844. According to the pinnacle of Sotheby’s photography division, Emily Bierman, the worth of the gathering lies not merely in its age and situation, however in its selection and completeness.

“Over the years, these photographs have become harder and harder to find, because they are snapped up and are in private or institutional collections,” Bierman mentioned in a telephone interview. “To have a full collection, an archive … is something you couldn’t even dream up.

“The pictures embrace an incredible combination of private research, in addition to photos from his travels and of necessary monuments … although a number of the best surprises are undoubtedly the portraits,” she added, referencing rare images of Talbot’s mother and the celebrated writer Thomas Moore.

Writer and poet Thomas Moore (center) is among the figures captured in Talbot's portraits.

Writer and poet Thomas Moore (middle) is among the many figures captured in Talbot’s portraits. Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s

In the 1840s, Talbot gave the items to his half-sister Henrietta Horatia Maria Gaisford, who appears in a number of the photos. They have been passed down through the family ever since, with next month’s auction marking the first time they have been available on the collectors’ market. Gaisford’s personal sketchbook, which contains drawings and watercolors, is also included in the sale.

Sotheby’s has estimated that the collection will go for between $300,000 and $500,000. Should it do so, the sale would surpass the previous record for a collection of Talbot’s photos, set at Sotheby’s in 2018, when a complete copy of “The Pencil of Nature” was bought for $275,000.

Early pioneer

Talbot developed his groundbreaking “salted paper” photography technique during a vacation in the early 1830s, when he grew frustrated with the limitations of sketching. Using a solution containing salt and, later, silver nitrate, he created a light-sensitive surface from ordinary writing paper, which darkened when exposed to sunlight.

He would later develop the influential calotype (or talbotype) technique, which was more complex than the salted paper process but drastically reduced exposure times. Though not as popular as the daguerreotype, which became widely used around the world in the 1840s, Talbot’s technique proved hugely influential in the development of camera technology, as it produced photographic negatives that allowed images to be more easily replicated.
Talbot's sister, Henrietta Horatia Maria Gaisford, pictured playing the harp.

Talbot’s sister, Henrietta Horatia Maria Gaisford, pictured taking part in the harp. Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s

But while Talbot was a keen alchemist and an important figure in the science of photography, Bierman also commended his artistic sensibilities.

“The compositions are extremely subtle,” she said, citing a landscape photo taken in Scotland that used the water’s reflection to produce a “confluence of triangles which can be completely centered.”

“Thinking in regards to the constraints he would have confronted in working towards photography so early, to have the foresight as to how precisely you are going to translate what you see earlier than you right into a bodily print is, I believe, true artistry.”

Talbot’s assortment goes beneath the hammer as a part of the “50 Masterworks to Celebrate 50 Years of Sotheby’s Photographs” auction, which brings together some of the medium’s most important names. The sale features a number of other valuable early images, including a male nude by pioneering French photographer Eugène Atget, expected to sell for up to $150,000, and an 1867 image of a riverside garrison in Oregon that carries a top estimate of $350,000.

How do art auctions really work?

More contemporary offerings include a collection of Sebastião Salgado’s depictions of a Brazilian gold mine, Martin Parr’s series “The final Resort” and 11 images by the celebrated fashion photographer Richard Avedon.

According to Bierman, photography sales have weathered the pandemic more successfully than many other parts of the auction market, which has been severely disrupted by limits on viewing events and in-person sales. She attributed some of this to first-time buyers, who may see photography as a more accessible and affordable way into art collecting.

“In 2020, a couple of third of our bidders and patrons for {photograph} gross sales have been both new to the market fully or new to Sotheby’s,” she said. “That’s astonishing and undoubtedly factors to a wholesome market.”

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