Portrait of John Heys as Diana Vreeland
Portrait of John Heys as Diana Vreeland. Early 1980s. Vintage gelatin silver print. 48 x 32 cm (50,3 x 40,4 cm). Signed by the photographer in ink and annotated by John Heys in pencil on the verso.
Peter Hujar and the Soul of the Portrait
Of Ukranian background, Peter Hujar grew up on a farm in New Jersey and was raised by his grandparents. At the age of twelve, he went to New York to live with his mother and received his first camera at age thirteen. His first subjects were animals on the farm when he went back for visits and animals remained a subject for his camera throughout his life. Lisette Model and August Sander were strong influences in his work, which explains his moving in the direction of portraiture. Hujar had an intuitive understanding of composition and posing. His early work as a fashion photographer was how he first earned a living with photography. Predominantly working in black and white and with a medium format camera, he usually preferred the controlled environment of his studio or other indoor spaces. Many of his sitters were uninhibited in front of the camera, ranging from casual acquaintances to close friends and intimate lovers.
Hujar’s subjects often have remarkable physical presence as he portrayed theater actors, singers, transvestites, writers, eccentrics as well as New York personalities of the cultural and fashion world. Even in his celebrity portraits a part of the soul of the sitter and often a vulnerability shows through. He took many types of portraits: people in costume, people relaxing, people at home, people with and without makeup, people (both clothed and unclothed) in his East Village studio with its signature painted, crack-ridden concrete floor and white walls. The names of his sitters included: John Waters, Divine, Andy Warhol, Susan Sontag, Diana Vreeland, Peggy Lee, John Heys, Paul Thek, Merce Cunningham, Robert Wilson, Fran Lebowitz, Ethyl Eichelberger, David Wojnarowicz and William Burroughs to name only a few. He portrayed downtown New York from the late 1960s until his death in 1987 by engaging its people in a private, one-to-one conversation with the camera.
The following private collection of Peter Hujar photographs comprises an array of portraits, most of the actor, director and writer John Heys. He and Peter Hujar had a special and very close relationship. In the book accompanying an exhibition at Paul Kasmin Gallery, Jan. 28 – Feb. 27, 2016 “Peter Hujar: Lost Downtown”, the executor of Hujar’s estate, Stephen Koch noted: “Every now and then, Hujar the portraitist would fall in love with some face and presence that he would never tire of photographing. This is what happened with John Heys. There are countless portraits and pictures…”. Many of the portraits offered here express how Hujar often scratched below the surface of his subjects. They emanate an essence, a cachet, a special moment, a lingering facet of a personality. Such early vintage photographs printed by Hujar himself as the following lots are rare on the art market.
Hujar’s photographs are in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum, New York, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Fotomuseum Winterthur and other European institutions.
– Some handling/indentation marks, especially in right portion, corners/edges slightly bumped, otherwise a fine tonal print in good condition.
Provenance: Directly from Peter Hujar to the present owner.