114
114
Edward Weston
SHELLS
Estimate
150,000250,000
LOT SOLD. 150,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
114
Edward Weston
SHELLS
Estimate
150,000250,000
LOT SOLD. 150,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Photographs

|
New York

Edward Weston
1886-1958
SHELLS
signed and dated in pencil on the reverse, 1927
9 1/2  by 7 1/2  in. (24.1 by 19.1 cm.)
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Estate of Tina Modotti

Collection of Vittorio Vidali (1900-1983)

By descent to his son Carlos Vidali

Sotheby’s New York, 8 May 1984, Sale 5176, Lot 354

Catalogue Note

When Edward Weston returned to California after his sojourn in Mexico, he devoted himself to work comprised of two themes.  First, he explored the female form in a series of nudes.  Then, in March 1927, he started on a series of photographs of shells.  Weston found the surface detail and tonal quality of the shells deeply inspiring and experimented with different compositions, depth of field, exposure times (sometimes lasting up to four and a half hours), and shell configurations.  He experienced frustration every step of the way.  Weston writes: ‘I worked all Sunday with the shells,—literally all day.  Only three negatives made and two of them were done as records of movement to repeat again when I can find suitable backgrounds.  I wore myself out trying every conceivable texture and tone for grounds: Glass, tin, cardboard,— wool, velvet, even my rubber raincoat!’ (Daybooks II, p. 21).  Despite Weston’s exasperation with the process, the photographs themselves proved to be some of his most successful.

This photograph comes originally from the estate of Tina Modotti.  Weston sent several of his shell studies to Modotti in Mexico, who had been his lover and model for several years.  The photographs elicited an extreme reaction from Modotti: ‘My God Edward, your last photography surely took my breath away!  I feel speechless in front of them.  What purity of vision. When I opened the package I couldn’t look at them very long, they stirred up all my innermost feelings so that I felt a physical pain. . .  They contain both the innocence of natural things and the morbidity of a sophisticated, distorted mind.  They make me think of lilies and of embryos.  They are mystical and erotic’ (Daybooks II, p. 31).

The present photograph – printed on matte-surface paper and with Weston’s early, assured signature on the reverse – represents the ideal early state of the image.  Later in the 1920s, Weston would make the transition to paper with a glossy surface.  At the time of this writing, no other prints of this image have been located and it is not recorded in Conger.  A slight variant composition was sold in these rooms on 10 October 2005 (Sale 8164, Lot 5). 

Photographs

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New York