This week’s photographer will be the third and last I pluck from the auction catalogue, I swear! I can’t help it that these good folk from Grisebach, Berlin have such fine works of art printed in their May 2013 publication, now can I? There were two works of hers on sale: “Untitled, New York” from 1979-1980 and “It must be time for lunch now, New York” from 1979. Both images have a slightly humorous surrealistic quality to them, where especially the first reminds slightly of the work of Bill Brandt. It was the first image that fetched a lot more than the auction house estimate of € 4.500 – 5.500 as it did € 7320 (which includes the 22% commission), whereas the second one was spot on target within the estimates of € 4.500 – 5.500, fetching €4880 (including the 22% commission). Looking at more of her work, I realize I have seen some of it before.
Francesca Woodman was born on April 3, 1958, in Denver, Colorado, to well-known artists George Woodman and Betty Woodman (Abrahams).Woodman attended public school in Boulder, Colorado, between 1963 and 1971 except for second grade, which she attended in Italy. She began high school in 1972 at the private Massachusetts boarding school Abbot Academy, where she began to develop her photographic skills and became interested in the art form. Abbot Academy merged with Phillips Academy in 1973; Woodman graduated from the public Boulder High School in 1975. Through 1975, she spent summers with her family in Italy.
Beginning in 1975, Woodman attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island. She studied in Rome between 1977 and 1978 in a RISD honors program. As she spoke fluent Italian, she was able to befriend Italian intellectuals and artists. She went back to Rhode Island in late 1978 to graduate from RISD.
Woodman moved to New York City in 1979. After spending the summer of 1979 in Stanwood, Seattle whilst visiting her boyfriend at Pilchuck Glass School, she returned to New York “to make a career in photography.” She sent portfolios of her work to fashion photographers, but “her solicitations did not lead anywhere.” In the summer of 1980 she was an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
In late 1980 Woodman became depressed due to the failure of her work to attract attention and to a broken relationship. She survived a suicide attempt, after which she lived with her parents in Manhattan. On January 19, 1981, she committed suicide by jumping out a loft window in New York. An acquaintance wrote, “things had been bad, there had been therapy, things had gotten better, guard had been let down.” Her father has suggested that Woodman’s suicide was related to an unsuccessful application for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Although Woodman used different cameras and film formats during her career, most of her photographs were taken with medium format cameras producing 2-1/4 by 2-1/4 inch (5.7 by 5.7 cm) square negatives. Woodman created at least 10,000 negatives, which her parents now keep. Woodman’s estate, which is managed by Woodman’s parents and represented by the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York, consists of over 800 prints,of which only around 120 images had been published or exhibited as of 2006. Most of Woodman’s prints are 8 by 10 inches (20 by 25 cm) or smaller, which “works to produce an intimate experience between viewer and photograph”. Many of Woodman’s images are untitled and are known only by a location and date. You can see even more of her work on this Tumblr feed dedicated to Francesca.
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