Margaret Bourke-White Photograph
Appraised Value: $4,000 - $6,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:46)
Vice President & Director of Photographs
Swann Auction Galleries
GUEST: Well, this is a Margaret Bourke-White photograph, and my father commissioned her to photograph for him the complete steel-making process. He was chief metallurgist for Republic Steel.
APPRAISER: When we look at fine art photographs, documentary photographs by masters of photography like Bourke-White, we recognize that they used certain papers and had certain trademark styles over and over again. This black-ruled border that we see around the print is typical of how she created her photographs. The other thing that is typical of a Bourke-White image is this cream-colored double-weight paper. It has a slightly pebbly finish to it. It has a real heft when you hold it, and that, too, gave me a clear indication. The final and, of course, most important part of this picture, or puzzle, is the subject matter.
APPRAISER: Now, talk to me a little bit about what this depicts.
GUEST:Well, it's one process of about 15 or 20 that she made for my dad that show from the very beginning where they charge the blast furnace all the way through to the ingots that are being rolled on the ingot floor. And so I'm not sure what's going on here. I just know it's part of that steel-making process.
APPRAISER: What's wonderful about the image is that it epitomizes the Industrial Age, the modernist period. And of course, later on, in the mid '30s and the late '30s, Bourke-White became synonymous with abstract, modernist photographs very much like this, sometimes a little bigger, that also depict the ideal machine. And this was part of the graphic language associated in the United States with the modernist vocabulary. Um, do you have any sense of the value of this picture?
GUEST: None whatsoever.
APPRAISER: Well, in the auction market, I would estimate this picture at $4,000 to $6,000.
GUEST: The one print?
APPRAISER: The one photograph.
GUEST: But there's a whole series of them in my brother's attic or basement or...
APPRAISER: Well, that sounds even better.
GUEST: And some of the photographs are bigger and some... The one that had... shows the ladle pouring the molten steel is the largest. I mean, it was outsized. The rest are all this size.
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