The 548 photographs in this lot span the entire range of Edward Weston’s career as a photographer, from his early Pictorial figure studies to his last landscapes on Point Lobos. There are excellent, representative pictures of his work in Glendale, where he had his first studio; his transition from Pictorialist to Modernist in Mexico; his memorable work with shells, vegetables, and plants; his elegant series of female nudes, including many images of his most important muse, Charis Wilson; his studies of cloud-filled skies and windswept dunes; his panorama of America, first for California and the West and then for Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; portraits of friends, family, authors, and artists over several decades; and finally, photographs from his last years at Wildcat Hill, photographs that suggest a new direction his work might have taken, had his career not been cut short by illness. This Master Set encapsulates the full scope of Weston’s achievement in the art of photography and offers a definitive statement of his importance to the history of art of the 20th century.
The majority of the prints in this catalogue were made by Cole Weston in the years between 1958, when his father died, and 1988, when Cole decided to cut back on printing from his father’s negatives and concentrate on his own work as a photographer. Although most of Edward Weston’s negatives went, as part of Weston’s archive, to the Center for Creative Photography in 1981, a selection of the more popular negatives was kept by Cole at his Garrapata studio, and new prints were made by him from time to time, until his own passing in 2003. Cole also had the right to borrow back negatives from the Center for Creative Photography during his lifetime.
A surprising number of the images offered here are not represented by prints in the Edward Weston archive at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson: the Center has no prints—neither early prints by Edward, nor Project Prints by his son Brett—of over 140 of the images that comprise the present lot. These include, among many others, two of the iconic shells (Conger F.2 and F.3), one of the peppers, the maguey cactus, the leeks, a rare pose from the famous ‘Charis on the dunes’ series, Charis at Lake Ediza, and Charis in a gas mask (Conger F.5).
In other instances, Amy Conger, in her catalogue of Weston prints at the Center, lists only a handful of extant prints in institutions (sometimes as few as one or two) that correspond to certain Cole prints offered here. Among these are the famous bedpan (Conger 582; the Center’s print is a print by Cole); the memorable ‘Hot Coffee’ (Conger 1175) and the Excusado (Conger 184); the bananas (Conger 597) and the Chinese cabbage (Conger 652); exquisite cloud studies (Conger 912, 913, and 1329); the duck and lily at Point Lobos (Conger 1496); Charis in the hammock (Conger 1032); and nudes of Miriam Lerner, Bertha, Virginia, and others too numerous to mention. That few prints of these images—by Edward, Brett, or Cole—ever appear at auction, is worth noting. Not only comprised of icons, the Master Set includes a range of images that are rare in any form and that will not be printed again.