“RESTRAINT IS QUICK TO THE SWORD”: VINTAGE GELATIN SILVER PRINT FROM W. EUGENE SMITH’S PRIVATE COLLECTION, FEATURED IN HIS JAPAN… A CHAPTER OF IMAGE
SMITH, W. Eugene. Photograph. Hitachi Ltd. Two Men Reading the Newspaper. No place, circa 1961. Vintage gelatin silver print (measures 11 by 15 inches), matted (total measures 16 by 20 inches), Smith’s estate stamp on print verso, gallery exhibit label on mat verso. $3200.
Vintage gelatin silver print from the estate of W. Eugene Smith, his expressive image of two workers reading the sports pages—evoking a complex contrast of old and new. Taken circa 1961 and chosen for his 1963 photobook Japan… A Chapter of Image, this print with Smith’s estate inkstamp on the verso was featured in a highly praised 1996 New York gallery exhibit.
In the early 1960s Japan’s Hitachi Corporation sought out W. Eugene Smith to chronicle its powerful rise as an industrial leader because Smith was “eminently known throughout Japan… Crazy like Noguchi” (Hughes, 42-3). With a promise of carte blanche, Smith spent nearly a year in Japan photographing every aspect of the company and its workers. On selecting this overhead view of two men reading newpapers for his acclaimed photobook Japan… A Chapter of Image (1963), Smith wrote in the book’s caption that he was drawn to the newspapers’ respective images of sumo wrestlers and baseball players. To Smith, this expressed a dialogue between old and new—a contrast of “excitements over sports as diverse as sumo wrestling and baseball”—setting sumo’s “determined impassiveness” against baseball’s more “volatile” emotions where “restraint is quick to the sword” (16). Print with inkstamp on the verso reading “Photograph by W. Eugene Smith: This authenticated photograph was in the private collection of W. Eugene Smith at the time of his death—October 15, 1978.” Mat with small label of New York’s Lowinsky Gallery, which exhibited this print and others from the estate in early 1996.
A fine print.