Edward Weston


"Cuernavaca," 1925

Palladium print on paper hinged to a thin board mount
Signed, titled, and dated in pencil on the mount, at right: Edward Weston; signed, titled, and dated again in pencil, verso: Nov. 1925
Image/Sheet: 9.625" H x 7.25" W; Mount: 18.625" H x 14.125" W

  • Provenance: The Artist
    Frederick W. Davis, acquired from the above
    Private Collection, Southern California, by descent from the above
  • Literature:
    Amy Conger, "Edward Weston's Early Photography," Ph.D. diss. (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 1982), figs. 25-26.
    Amy Conger, "Edward Weston in Mexico 1923-1926," (Albuquerque, NM, University of New Mexico Press, 1983), 39, fig. 21.
    Sarah M. Lowe, "Tina Modotti and Edward Weston: The Mexican Years" (London: Merrell, 2004), plate 36.
    Gilles Mora, et al., "Edward Weston: Forms of Passion/Passion of Forms" (London: Thames & Hudson, 1995), 107.
    Jose Antonio Rodriguez, et al., "Edward Weston: La Mirada de la Ruptura" (Mexico: El Instituto, 1994), 45, fig. 14.
    Theodore Stebbins, "Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism" (New York: Bulfinch Press, 1999), plate 21.
    Edward Weston, "The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Vol. 1 Mexico," ed. Nancy Newhall (Millerton, NY: Aperture, 1973), plate 23.
    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: "Tronco de Palma"].
  • Notes: In late November 1925, Weston returned to Cuernavaca where he had been invited to spend a few days in Fred Davis's home. Accompanying him were his son Brett, Modotti and her sister Mercedes, and journalist Carlton Beals. This time he took a different approach when he photographed the same statuesque palm tree he had recorded a year earlier. In this second image, he eliminates the fronds and clouds that are featured in the first version. He also crops the palm trunk at top and bottom, precisely centering it in his composition, and he emphasizes its texture and solidity by placing it against a dramatically darkened background. Upon returning to Mexico City, Weston recorded his thoughts about the new negative: "Today, staring out upon the drab sky and sad city street, yesterday returns as a tantalizing mirage, a favored moment in some Eden. I was incited to work, the stately palm in Davis' garden….[different] than that of last year, —though so different in intent, as to be perhaps, not comparable."(1)

    A week later Weston and Modotti gave a party in honor of Mercedes who was about to end her six-week visit to Mexico City. As an adjunct to the festivities, Weston printed a few new images to show their guests and one of them was the stark, monolithic palm trunk. It must have inspired comments—perhaps both positive and negative—because Weston felt compelled to ponder why he had taken such an unusual photograph. He queried his journal: "The weather having favored me at last with printing days, I had ready to show a print of the new palm. Why should a few yards of white tree trunk, exactly centered, cutting across an empty sky, cause such real response? And why did I spend my hours doing it? One question is simply answered—I had to!"(2) In fact, Weston's desire to simplify his previous palm image represents a critical step in his aesthetic evolution. During this period of Weston's career, there exists no better example of the transition he is undergoing as he leaves behind the soft-focus romanticism of his pictorialist past and moves toward the streamlined clarity of his modernist future.

    Prints of this strikingly bold image are quite rare, and the impeccable provenance and art historical importance of this print make it especially desirable.

    (1) Edward Weston, "The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Vol. 1 Mexico," ed. Nancy Newhall (Millerton, NY: Aperture, 1973), 139. [November 23, 1925].
    (2) Ibid., 139. [December 1, 1925].

    Other 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.
  • Condition: Available upon request.

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

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