Spotlight on Portraits

Posted by on Sep 29 2011 | Other

Once again I’ve spent way too much time browsing through the the Benefit Auction catalogue. It innocently sits on the corner of my desk… and has quickly become my go-to piece of visual interest.  Last year it was landscapes, this year the portraits in our Live and Online auctions are standing out.



 Cindy Sherman, Untitled (Doctor and Nurse), 1980

Cindy Sherman photographs herself in different identities and situations, and I can’t recall ever seeing her work as a diptych.  This piece was created just following her Untitled Film Stills, 1977–1980 series , which brought her international recognition. And, of course, this past May a 1981 Sherman portrait, Untitled #96,  became the record holder for a photograph sold at auction. I wonder if she’ll ever pose as a Suffragette? (see last portrait below)


 William Coupon, Jerry Garcia, 1988

Coupon’s medium-shot and single-light portraits reference Dutch painting masters and are less about fashion than about personality. I have to confess it is entertaining just to see Garcia posed à la Rembrandt. Among Coupon’s notable sitters is another famed musician featured in the auction, Miles Davis. He appears with his trademark deep, penetrating gaze on his face….and a baby in his arms.



Various Artists, Five Stars: A Limited Edition Collection of Classic Portraits 

Classic portraits from Vanity Fair including works by photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Anton Bruehl, and Edward Steichen. Portraits of Louis Armstrong, Louise Brooks, George Gershwin, Katharine Hepburn, and Leslie Howard are featured in this portfolio.  It was fun for me to just imagine these stars in conversation based on their expression, gesture and (especially in Leslie Howard’s case) wardrobe.


 Nickolas Muray, Frida (Blue Dress), 1938

Known for his commercial images and celebrity portraits, Muray photographed some of the twentieth century’s best-known icons,  such as this portrait of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Their relationship is legendary… and as a former latina art student myself, Kahlo as a subject in portraits (both in her own painting as well as photographs taken of her)- and the public interest in them- has been continually fascinating.


Gertrude Kasebier, Untitled (studio portrait of a woman),  ca. 1905

Inscription in unknown hand in pencil reads ‘Carrie Chapman Catt’. A close colleague of Susan B. Anthony, Catt served as president of the National American Woman Sufferage Association (Anthony selected Catt to succeed her) and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women. One of the things I have always loved about moving to Rochester is the Susan B. Anthony House and how it serves, like this photograph does, as a reminder of both the leaders and the many ‘Untitled’ people who have been involved in a struggle to bring about change.



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    Roxana Aparicio Wolfe is the Curator of Education and Online Communities at George Eastman House.

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