Edward Weston


Untitled [Nude], 1923

Gelatin silver print on paper hinged to a thin board mount
Signed, dated, and with a notation in pencil at the lower edge of the mount: Edward Weston / "B + O"
Image/Sheet: 9.5" W x 7.5" W; Mount: 18" H x 13.875" W

  • Provenance: The Artist
    Frederick W. Davis, acquired from the above
    Private Collection, Southern California, by descent from the above
  • Literature:
    Francisco Monterde Garcia Icazbalceta, "Arte. La Exposicion de Edward Weston," "Antena: Revista Mensual" (November 1924): 10–11. [Referred to as: "Isolated breasts that stare at us, looking out of a fan of modest fingers"].
  • Notes: In addition to portraying Margrethe Mather reclining on the sands of Redondo Beach in April 1923, Weston also made a few close-ups of her torso, cropped, and juxtaposed against the spines of a paper parasol. It was very likely that on this same occasion, he moved even closer to his subject, focusing on Mather's right breast, her nipple tightly captured in the crook of her elbow and her flesh rather alarmingly punctuated by the pressure of her carefully manicured fingernails. Weston had never utilized this kind of aesthetic approach before, but he had recently been inspired by an audience with the most famous photographer in the United States.

    In November 1922 he went to New York City where he met Alfred Stieglitz twice and viewed many of his photographs. Almost certainly he saw several of Stieglitz's studies of Georgia O'Keeffe made in 1919, including those composed of various depictions of her full breasts and expressive hands. Recalling his first meeting with Stieglitz in a note to his friend Johan Hagemeyer, Weston was obviously impressed and exuberant: "‘A maximum detail with a maximum of simplification'—with these words as a basis for his attitude toward photography—I talked with Alfred Stieglitz for four hours—Brilliantly—convincingly he spoke—with all the idealism and fervor of a visionary—I saw a few of his prints too though most of them were in storage—I can only say in this brief note—they were the greatest photographs I have ever seen—And they were photographs—nothing else—And I was proud of my medium!.... I rejoiced in the possibilities of entirely new experimentation."(1) Four months later, one of Weston's more daring experiments resulted in this close-up of Mather's breast and hand. Very possibly this photograph, or some variant of it, was exhibited in Weston's 1924 exhibition at Aztec Land, because a magazine "review," written in the form of a poem, mentions images of "Isolated breasts that stare at us, looking out of a fan of modest fingers" and "Breasts offered by manicured fingers."(2)

    Weston further explored this approach a decade later after settling in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Beginning in 1933, he continued his experiments, composing nude fragments of several female models, including Sonya Noskowiak, Sybil Anikeef, Xenia Cage, Fay Fuquay, and Mary Ingels. These nude arrangements culminated in 1935 with images of Charis Wilson, the woman who would become his second wife in 1939.(3)

    Prints of this image are extremely rare.

    (1) Edward Weston to Johan Hagemeyer, November 18, 1922, Edward Weston/Johan Hagemeyer Collection, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
    (2) Francisco Monterde Garcia Icazbalceta, "Arte. La Exposición de Edward Weston," "Antena: Revista Mensual" (November 1924): 11. Citation courtesy of Susan Herzig & Paul Hertzmann, Paul Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco, CA.
    (3) See nude abstractions illustrated in Amy Conger, "Edward Weston: Photographs" (Tucson: Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1992), figs. 725-735, 741-742, 751-759, 769-772, 811-853.

    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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