E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection Newsletter | September 2006

E.O. Hoppé's vintage print
Steel Workers, Lincoln Liberty Building, Philadelphia, 1926
Sold at Christie's for $13,200

Record Price at US Auction for Hoppé Vintage Print

On September 8th, 2006, at Christie's (New York) Photographs auction, a new US sales record was set for an E.O. Hoppé print. On a presale estimate of $2,000 -$3,000, Steel Workers, Lincoln Liberty Building, Philadelphia, 1926, sold for $13,200 (including buyers premium)—surpassing the artist’s previous US record of $9,200 in 1998. The vintage silver gelatin print shows a bird’s-eye perspective of Philadelphia’s famous Lincoln Liberty skyscraper under construction. Its subject depicts the fearless nature of American construction workers while its layered space betrays a modernist sensibility.

Commenting on why he thought this print sold for over four times its estimate, Graham Howe, Director of the E.O Hoppé Estate Collection, explained:

It’s just simple market economics. With the recent unearthing of the Hoppé Estate Collection, which had been missing from the art scene since the end of WWII, photo-curators and collectors are now seeing evidence of what a handful of academics have known all along—that Hoppé was in the same league as his blue-chip photo-contemporaries, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Walker Evans. So with the re-discovery of the Hoppé Collection it is only natural for market prices to correct. Buying a Hoppé at around $13,000 is a shrewd investment when his historical peers regularly sell for around ten times that figure or more. A Steichen photograph from about the same period recently sold for $2.9 million.

Hoppé’s first exhibition of street photography in over sixty years, E.O. Hoppé's London at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, is attracting considerable media attention on the other side of the Atlantic and reawakening interest in this giant of photography. But it shouldn't be long before the US catches up, as exhibitions of Hoppé's work at New York’s Silverstein Photography gallery planned for April 2007 will propel the artist once again into the public eye.

Background on E.O. Hoppé

German-born British photographer Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972) was the most celebrated portrait and topographic photographer of the Modern era. Contemporaneous with Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and Walker Evans, Hoppé was described by British photographer Cecil Beaton simply as “The Master.” His now rare photographic books from the 1920s and 30s on America, Great Britain, and Germany—classics in photographic literature—show Hoppé’s pioneering Modernist style that was largely formative and influential in the practice of photographic art in the first half of the twentieth century.

Hoppé studied portrait photography in Paris and Vienna before moving to live in London in 1900. In 1907, after winning first prize in a contest sponsored by the London newspaper the Daily Mail, Hoppé left banking to open a portrait studio in London’s Baron’s Court. His photographs of arts celebrities such as Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, A.A. Milne, T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, Leon Bakst, Vaslav Nijinsky and the dancers of the Ballets Russes quickly earned him the reputation as the top celebrity photographer in London. His passion for street photography and his pioneering efforts in photographic art, along with his naturalistic studies, were widely celebrated in the US, Britain, and Europe. In 1913 he expanded his studio to the Kensington house of the late painter Sir John Millias, occupying all thirty-three rooms with his burgeoning operation.

By 1919 Hoppé tired of his work and sought travel to foreign countries to photograph self-assigned subjects. His large-format gravure-printed photographic books about “Fair Women” (1922), Great Britain (1926), the United States (1927), Germany (1930 and 1932), Australia (1931), and India (1935) were likely to have influenced his contemporaries.

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