Edward Weston


"Chayotes," 1924

Palladium print on paper hinged to a thin board mount
Signed, titled, dated, and inscribed in pencil at the lower edge of the mount: Edward Weston / Mexico; with a notation in pencil at the upper left corner of the mount, verso: 35
Image/Sheet: 7.5" H x 9.625" W; 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
  • Literature: Conger 140/1924
    Edward Weston, "Statement" in "Exhibition: Edward Weston/Brett Weston: Photographs; In the Print Rooms at the Los Angeles Museum" (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Museum, 1927). [Referred to as: "Chayotes"].
  • Notes: Weston made his photograph "Chayotes" near the end of September 1924, after having lived in Mexico City for one year and a month. He was then preparing his second solo exhibition at Aztec Land, a curio shop on Avenida Madero. His show was due to open on October 15, and he was anxious to display a selection of his most recent images. On October 5, he sent nine rambling, handwritten pages of notes to his estranged wife, Flora. They included the following words: "to tired to go out—to nervous to stay in—a big day of printing—the first day possible for platinum printing in three weeks—results fourteen prints from as many negatives….today I feel is the first day of winter—not by the calendar to be sure—but because not all day long did one cloud appear—que Milagro!....Several negatives printed are new—made during this last cloudy week when I turned to my camera for diversion and consolation—‘still lifes' they are—and pleasing ones—two fishes and a bird on a silver screen—head of a horse against my petate—chayotes in a painted wooden bowl and artificial fruit in another bowl….These ‘still lifes' strange to say—are the first I have ever done and [I'm] feeling quite sure they number among my best things."(1)

    The chayotes Weston depicts are a type of squash known as "prickly chayotes." The aptly named fruits, covered by needle-like projections, are indigenous to Mexico and are a source of food widely cultivated since the days of the ancient Aztecs. Given Weston's vegetarian preferences, it is not surprising that he chose to photograph an arrangement of these unusual fruits. By positioning his camera directly above the chayotes, he captures both the sheen of their tough rinds and the menace of their spiky protuberances, and by arranging them in a humble, hand-painted wooden bowl atop a handwoven straw petate, he creates a uniquely Mexican exercise in textures and patterns. Although there is no documentation to prove that "Chayotes" was among those photographs shown at Aztec Land in October 1924, it is known that Weston displayed several of his recently made "still lifes" in that exhibition. Considering Fred Davis's collecting interests, it is easy to understand why he was drawn to an image so emblematic of his adopted country.

    (1) Edward Weston to Flora Weston, "Notes," September 30, 1924, included in a letter dated October 5, 1924, Edward Weston Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.

    Other Notes: We are grateful to Paul Hertzmann of Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc. San Francisco, CA for his assistance in cataloguing this work and Beth Gates Warren for her essay contribution.
  • Condition: Available upon request.

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

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