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Archive of Photographer Walker Evans's Largely Unseen Personal Collection at Auction

BOSTON, MA — In 1935, the Farm Security Administration commissioned a team of photographers to document the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Among these was Walker Evans, who is widely recognized as one of the most influential figures in the history of American documentary photography for his poetic – and now iconic – view of America.

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) Robert Frank’s Stove, Nova Scotia, 1971 (Lot 154, Estimate: $2,500-3,500)

Evans’s career stretched from the late 1920s to the early 1970s, creating an all-encompassing body of work. Over the course of 50 years, he photographed vernacular subjects ranging from street signs to domestic interiors, to churches and rural ephemera. His work was included in countless pivotal exhibitions, including American Photographs, the Museum of Modern Art’s 1938 retrospective of his first decade of photography.

But much of his work went unseen, kept in a personal collection of exhibition, work and study prints that Evans loved, yet had less appeal to collectors of the time. Until now.

Skinner Auctioneers in Boston, MA is thrilled to offer an online auction of Walker Evans photographs through May 18, 2018. These span the photographer’s career and come from a private Massachusetts collection by way of the Harry Lunn Gallery archive.

On May 9, 2018, at 5pm, Skinner will host a reception and lecture by Evans biographer Belinda Rathbone entitled “The Endurance of Walker Evans” at 63 Park Plaza, Boston, MA.

While the auction will feature countless unseen treasures, there are some well-known highlights. Bowery Lunchroom from 1933-34 (lot 21, estimate $3,000-5,000) memorializes a chalk-scribbled menu on the window of a New York City luncheonette.

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) Bowery Lunchroom, New York, 1933-34 (Lot 21, Estimate: $3,000-5,000)

Robert Frank’s Stove, Nova Scotia, 1971 (lot 154, estimate $2,500-3,500), photographed late in Evans’s career, is particularly iconic for its representation of another vanguard of American photographic history.

Less familiar images include Hair Care Shop Off Broadway, New York City, 1963 (lot 136, estimate $2,000-3,000), Two Children between Caryatids at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, 1946-47 (lot 89, estimate $2,500-3,500), and Folk Painting of Sponge Diving Scene in Curio Shop, Florida, 1941 (lot 80, estimate $1,500-2,500).

Evans was Fortune Magazine’s staff photographer from 1945-1965, and work from this period rarely comes to market. Photographs created for several portfolios, including “People and Places in Trouble” (March 1961) and “Chicago: A Camera Exploration” (February 1947), will be offered in the auction.

The archive marks the remainder of photographs from a 5,500-image collection that Harry Lunn acquired in 1975 for $150,000, an unheard-of sum at the time. Over the years, many of these images were placed in museums and other prominent collections, but the remaining photographs, often referred to as the “Lost Pictures,” are highly covetable and worthy of new eyes.

Previews, Catalogs & Events

Previews will be held in Boston on Marlborough on Wednesday, May 9, 12 pm – 5 pm and Thursday, May 10, 12 pm – 8 pm.  Free and open to the public, specialists will be on hand to answer questions.  Belinda Rathbone will present a lecture on Wednesday, May 9 on  “The Endurance of Walker Evans.” 


About Skinner

Skinner attracts top consignments and commands record-breaking prices in the international auction marketplace. With renowned expertise and extraordinary service, Skinner is the place for buyers, sellers and the passionately curious. Skinner appraisers are familiar faces on PBS’s 15-time Emmy Award-nominated ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. Visit us in Boston, Marlborough, New York or Miami, or online at https://www.skinnerinc.com

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