Robert Frank, ‘Chicago-Political Rally’, 1956-printed circa 1986, Phillips

Photographs from a Private Collection, New York

From the Catalogue:
Robert Frank traveled the United States, capturing the parade of characters, hierarchies and societal imbalances of the great American social landscape. Frank embarked on his project documenting America after becoming the first European to be awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. The application that outlined his intentions for the project included written references from the renowned American photographers Walker Evans and Edward Steichen. Of his 27,000 pictures taken during this time, Frank selected an iconic sequence of 83 images that appears in every edition of his famed book, The Americans.

One of the most significant photobooks in the history of photography, The Americans has been released in numerous editions and languages since its initial publication in 1958. In 1986, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, sought to acquire 27 prints from this important series for their permanent collection. In order to raise the funds necessary for such a sizable and significant acquisition, The Met's Department of Photographs approached a small group of donors for assistance. Robert Frank, pleased at the prospect of The Met's acquisition, offered, through Pace/MacGill Gallery, three prints from The Americans to be printed as a gift for each donor. The following three lots on offer here come directly from one of the private collectors whose generous support helped make The Met's 1986 Robert Frank acquisition possible. Collectively, The Met patrons selected three of Frank's most significant and sought-after images: Trolley, New Orleans, 1955 (lot 268), Chicago-Political Rally, 1956 (lot 269), and US 285, New Mexico, 1956 (lot 270).

Whether subtle or explicit, politics are never far from sight in The Americans, with a number of images, such as Chicago-Political Rally, 1956, capturing parades, civic events and rallies across the country. In 1956, when this photograph was taken, Chicago-native Adlai Stevenson II was running, for a second time, for President of the United States, and was predicted to lose in a landslide, for a second time, to Dwight D. Eisenhower. On Chicago-Political Rally, John Szarkowski wrote: “From the fine shiny sousaphone rises a comic strip balloon that pronounces once more the virtue of ritual patriotism. On either side of the tuba-player stand his fellows, as anonymous and as dependable as he. It is somehow proper—funnier, sadder, and truer—that the occasion should have been an Adlai Stevenson rally.” The odd reality that Szarkowski points to, that of an excited rally steeped in American patriotism, held in support of an all but doomed candidate running against an immensely popular incumbent and celebrated General, reveals the distinct brilliance present throughout The Americans.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: Signed, titled and dated in ink in the margin.

The Americans, no. 58
Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, pp. 281, 476, Contact no. 58
Akron Art Museum, Robert Frank and American Politics, p. 18
Aperture, Robert Frank, frontispiece
Greenough and Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out, pp. 129, 180
Tucker and Brookman, Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia, p. 33
Gee, Photography of the Fifties, cover, p. 156
Green, American Photography, A Critical History, 1945 to the Present, p. 79
Kismaric, American Politicians: Photographs from 1843 to 1993, p. 151
Newhall, The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present Day, p. 200
Szarkowski, Looking at Photographs, pp. 176-177
Szarkowski, The Photographer's Eye, p. 152

Gift from the artist to the present owner, 1989

About Robert Frank

One of the most acclaimed photographers of the 20th century, Robert Frank is best known for his seminal book The Americans, featuring photographs taken by the artist in the mid-1950s as he traveled across the U.S. on a Guggenheim fellowship. These photographs feature glimpses of highways, cars, parades, jukeboxes, and diners as iconic symbols of America while simultaneously suggesting an underlying sense of alienation and hardship. Frank’s loose, casual approach often generated blurred imagery and tilted horizons, causing his photographic style to be as controversial as his subject matter. In the 1950s, Frank was a regular contributor to Harper’s Bazaar, but later turned his focus from still images to filmmaking, creating classics of American subculture such as Pull My Daisy (1959).

American, b. 1924, Zurich, Switzerland