Robert Frank, ‘Rodeo - New York City’, 1954, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
In September of 1954, one month before submitting his Guggenheim Fellowship application, Robert Frank took this image, Rodeo – New York City. In the application, Frank expressed his desire to document American life, or as he wrote in his statement, “The making of a broad, voluminous picture record of things American, past and present.” The fellowship, which he was granted in 1955, later resulted in the landmark publication, The Americans, that included this image along with 82 others.

Before Frank received the fellowship, and the financial and artistic freedom that it allowed, his style of shooting had a dual focus, both finding the right moment that struck him, and also capturing images that could be used and sold to publications. The present lot, an image of a cowboy at the Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York City is one from an entire roll of film Frank took at the event. Frank’s natural inclination for decisive shooting is evident in this image, and continued to progress throughout his Guggenheim fellowship.

Much like Rodeo - Detroit, 1955, also included in The Americans, in Rodeo – New York City, Frank juxtaposes the All-American Cowboy within an urban landscape. In the midst of the bustling city with trucks passing in the street and bystanders on the city stoops behind him, the cowboy naturally props himself against the empty wire trash can—the embodiment of the iconic cowboy in his hat, belt-buckle, and boots at ease with legs crossed, seemingly unphased to be in the heart of New York City.

The present lot is a significant print of Rodeo – New York City, known to be printed before 1957, a year before The Americans was first released by Delpire, the French publisher, as Les Américains in 1958. This work is not only an iconic example of what Frank envisioned in “of things American, past and present,” but a rare and early printing by the artist.

Other prints of this of this image are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; and The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: Signed, titled 'NYC' and dated '1955' in ink in the margin; titled 'Rodeo Cowboy Madison Sq. Garden' and annotated 'Return to R. Frank 34 Third Avenue NYC' in ink on the verso.

The Americans, no. 10
Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, pp. xviii, 290, 478, 479, Contact no. 65
U.S. Camera [Annual] 1958, p. 91
Frank, Robert Frank: Story Lines, p. 206

Galerie Yajima, Montreal
Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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