Edward Weston


"Bathing Pool," 1919

Palladium print on paper hinged to a thin board mount
Signed, titled, and dated in pencil at the lower edge of the mount: Edward Weston; signed and titled again, numbered, inscribed, and with the purple Københavns Fotografiske Amatør-Klub ink stamp (Denmark), all verso
Image/Sheet: 9.625" H x 7.5" H; Mount: 18" H x 14" W

  • Provenance: The Artist
    Frederick W. Davis, acquired from the above
    Private Collection, Southern California, by descent from the above
  • Exhibited: Copenhagen, Denmark, Copenhagen Photographic Amateur Club [Kobenhavns Fotografiske Amator-Klub], "Copenhagen Photographic Amateur Club Exhibition 1920," American Section, August 25-September 10, 1920 (Group)
  • Literature: Amy Conger, "Edward Weston's Early Photography," Ph.D. diss. (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 1982), 285, figs. 19-12.
    London Salon of Photography, "Catalogue of the International Exhibition of the London Salon of Photography 1919" (London: London Salon of Photography, 1919). [Referred to as: "Bathing Pool"].
  • Notes: We are grateful to Paul Hertzmann of Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco, for his assistance in cataloguing this work and to Beth Gates Warren for her essay contribution.

    Weston took his photograph "Bathing Pool" in 1919 during a visit to the home of author and lecturer Paul Jordan Smith and his wife Sarah Bixby Smith. Their residence on East 6th Street in Claremont, California, had formerly housed Dr. W. E. Garrison's Claremont School for Boys. In the basement was a large swimming pool that Garrison had promoted as a necessary feature for the proper growth and development of his young students. When Garrison's lease ended in 1917, the Smiths began renovating the building and landscaping the twenty-acre property that surrounded it. One year later they moved in, along with Sarah's five children from her previous marriage and, occasionally, they were joined by Paul's three children from his earlier marriage. Weston soon became a frequent visitor and it was on one of those occasions that he created at least four images of nude male figures posed around the swimming pool. Bathing Pool features an older boy standing in profile while a younger boy sits at the edge of the pool, dangling his feet over the water. There are conflicting reports regarding the two boys' identities because their facial features are not clearly distinguishable. Relatives of Paul Jordan Smith have identified them as Paul's sons, Wilbur (age 13) and Ralph (age 11). Others believe the boys were Sarah's son, Llewellyn (age 16) and Edward Weston's eldest son, Chandler (age 9).(1) Still others have identified the boys as Edward's two eldest sons, Chandler (age 9) and Brett (age 8).(2)

    The swimming pool photographs are unlike any Weston had previously taken. Asymmetrically balanced, with an emphasis on geometry and angles, shadows, and reflections, they represent a rather sudden and remarkable addition to Weston's aesthetic vocabulary. Very likely this surprising development came about as the result of a lecture he attended in June 1919. At that time, Professor Arthur Wesley Dow, a renowned art teacher from New York City's Columbia University, was in Los Angeles to discuss and exhibit examples of his design theories based on the Japanese concept of Notan. This design philosophy involved the precise placement of light and dark elements within a composition, while relying entirely on asymmetry to balance them. Weston had long been aware of Dow's teachings, but after hearing the professor speak in person, he seems to have experienced an epiphany of sorts. Almost immediately he began to incorporate Dow's design principles into his own work.(3)

    In "Bathing Pool," Weston combines the dreamlike sensuality of the two boys with the softly defined angles of the rectangular pool and the arrangement of real and reflected architectural elements depicted in various intensities of gray, deliberately creating an image that perfectly illustrates Professor Dow's design theories. The swimming pool photographs are also prime examples of the type of soft-focus, romantic photography known as Pictorialism that Weston was then championing. A few weeks later, in September-October 1919, Weston exhibited a print of "Bathing Pool" for the first time at the London Salon of Photography. The same image was subsequently shown at the Scottish National Photographic Salon in December-January 1919-1920;(4) the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, in February-March 1920; and at the Society of Copenhagen Amateur Photographers in Denmark in August-September 1920.(5) Of special interest is the "Kobenhavns Fotografiske Amator-Klub" on the verso of the mount, indicating that this print is the same one Weston exhibited in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1920.

    Prints of this image are quite rare.

    (1) See "Edward Weston, The Bathing Pool," Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA, http://collections.museumca.org.
    (2) Brett Abbott, "Edward Weston, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum" (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005), 18.
    (3) Beth Gates Warren, "Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles" (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), 16, 166.
    (4) Citation courtesy of Susan Herzig & Paul Hertzmann, Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco, CA.
    (5) Warren, "Artful Lives," 346-348.
  • Condition: Available upon request.

    Framed under double-sided Plexiglas: 26" H x 22" W x 1" D

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