Edward Weston


"Prologue to a Sad Spring," 1920

Palladium print on paper hinged to a thin board mount
Signed, titled, dated, and with a notation in pencil at the lower edge of the mount: Edward Weston / OX each; initialed and with a notation in pencil, verso: E.W. / 2; signed again, twice, and titled, dated, and with notations in ink on an exhibition label affixed to the verso of the mount: March 1920
Image/Sheet: 9.375" H x 7.375" 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
  • Exhibited: Kansas City, KS, "First Annual Exhibition of Pictorial Photographs at the Kansas City Photo Supply Co.," February-March 1921.
  • Literature:
    Conger 52
    C.I. Brodersen, "Events of the Month: The Copenhagen Salon," "Photo-Era" 46, no. 1 (January 1921): 48.
    Amy Conger, "Edward Weston's Early Photography," Ph.D. diss. (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 1982), fig. 20/14.
    Karen Haas and Margaret Wessling, "Edward Weston: The Early Years" (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2018), plate 36 and cover.
    Ben Maddow, "Edward Weston: Fifty Years" (New York: Aperture, Inc., 1973), fig. 87.
    Antony Anderson, "Of Art and Artists: Edward Weston's Photographs," "Los Angeles Sunday Times," May 16, 1920, Part III, 2–3, 48.
    Beaumont Newhall, "Supreme Instants: The Photography of Edward Weston" (New York: New York Graphic Society, 1986), plate 2.
    C. J. Ocampo, "Las Fotografias de Edward Weston," "El Automovil en Mexico," November 1923, 15, 17.
    Beth Gates Warren, "Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration" (Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2001), plate 18.
    Edward Weston, "Statement," "San Franciscan" 5, no. 2 (December 1930): 22–23.
    Edward Weston [by Johan Hagemeyer; bust-length, head facing left, wearing open collar and jacket, 23: "Edward Weston: Johan Hagemeyer."]
  • 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.

    Edward Weston's photograph "Prologue to a Sad Spring," taken in March 1920, features his photographer colleague, frequent model, and erstwhile lover, Margrethe Mather, as she stands in front of a whitewashed barn, cocooned inside a fringed shawl, her facial features partially hidden by a broad brimmed hat. By juxtaposing her stolid figure against the pale shadow of a gnarled, leafless tree, Weston imbues his image with a pervasive melancholy. Although he never explained what sorrow or disappointment inspired the photograph, his life was filled with numerous dilemmas at the time. By far the most important issue was his growing resolve to separate from his wife, Flora Chandler. In April 1920, he confided to his friend Johan Hagemeyer that he was preparing another step in his "emancipation" by adding a few basic amenities to his studio that would allow him to live there if necessary. He told Hagemeyer: "Do let me hear from you—even a pessimistic letter would cheer me up—who am in the depths!"(1)

    Despite its somber title, the "Prologue" image proved to be a popular one, in contrast to Weston's earlier image titled "Epilogue."(2) In many ways the two photographs were visual complements, with "Epilogue," taken in 1919, representing Weston's experimentation with a bold, more stylized approach, and "Prologue" exemplifying Weston's retreat to a more typical, romantic, soft-focus idiom. Predictably, the conservative critics much preferred "Prologue," as did fellow photographer Imogen Cunningham who, after seeing "Prologue" for the first time, declared it "poetic" and "full of dreams."(3)

    Weston displayed the image at several venues over the next two years, including his solo exhibition at the State Normal School, Los Angeles, in May 1920; the Society of Copenhagen Amateur Photographers in August-September 1920; a joint exhibition with Margrethe Mather at the Friday Morning Club, Los Angeles, in February 1921; the First Annual Exhibition of Pictorial Photographs at the Kansas City Photo Supply Co. in February-March 1921; and another joint exhibition with Margrethe Mather, Karl Struss, and Edward S. Curtis at the MacDowell Club, Los Angeles in October-November 1921.(4) Of particular interest is the exhibition label attached to the verso of Fred Davis's print and annotated in Weston's own handwriting, which indicates that the print Davis owned is the same one Weston exhibited in Kansas City in 1921.

    (1) Edward Weston to Johan Hagemeyer, April 13, 1920, Edward Weston/Johan Hagemeyer Collection, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
    (2) Amy Conger, "Edward Weston: Photographs" (Tucson: Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1982), fig. 28.
    (3) Imogen Cunningham (Partridge) to Edward Weston, July 27, 1920, Edward Weston Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
    (4) Beth Gates Warren, "Exhibition Chronologies," "Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles" (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), 348-350.
  • Condition: Available upon request.

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

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