“CELEBRATED FOR THEIR DIRECTNESS, THEIR PENETRATING IMMEDIACY”: VINTAGE GELATIN SILVER PRINT OF W.H. AUDEN, SIGNED BY LOTTE JACOBI
JACOBI, Lotte. Photograph signed. W.H. Auden. New York, circa 1946. Vintage gelatin silver print (measuring 11 by 14 inches), photographer’s penciled signature and embossed stamp on lower right corner of print recto, penciled number and name on print verso. Handsomely matted and framed, entire piece measures 22 by 17 inches. $7500.
Vintage gelatin silver print by Lotte Jacobi, signed by her with her embossed “New York” studio stamp in the lower right corner of print recto, her famed 1946 portrait of poet W.H. Auden, his face half in shadow, half in soft light, quietly intent on the open book in his hands.
The photographs of Lotte Jacobi, one of the 20th-century’s finest portraitists, “are celebrated for their directness, their penetrating immediacy, and their ability to convey the essence of the subject before her camera.” (Sundstrom, 1). Jacobi’s photographs captured the vibrancy of Berlin’s Weimar culture before she was forced to flee Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In the 1940s her New York studio became a second home to many, like her, exiled by force or choice from their native lands. That sensitivity resonates in this famous portrait of British poet W.H. Auden, who often “depicted himself as a voyager” and in 1946, when this was taken, had just returned from “a visit to the war ruins of Europe” (Davenport-Hines, 1, 228). Jacobi’s artistry is especially powerful here in her photograph’s ability to protectively cloak the writer and his book from the world and yet, inexplicably, draw us into a “tacit rapport between viewer and image” (Sundstrom, 1). Jacobi’s vintage gelatin silver print, rarely found in this large 11 by 14-inch format, intuitively reveals that it was only “with books” that Auden’s “hands took on a deftness and lost all the ineptitude they had with plates and cups” (Davenport-Hines, 234). With Jacobi’s trademark penciled signature at the lower right corner of the print recto, immediately beneath her embossed stamp: “Lotte Jacobi, New York.” Lightly penciled notations on print verso reading “#111” and identified “W.H. Auden.” See White, Lotte Jacobi 89; Wise, 65. From the estate of Lotte Jacobi.
A fine signed print.