The photographer to Miriam Lerner, around 1925
Zeitlin & Ver Brugge Booksellers, Los Angeles, as agent
Acquired by Eric Read Aitkin, Yonkers, from the above, 1969
By descent to the present owner
This platinum print nude study by Edward Weston is one of four nudes and one portrait the photographer sent to Miriam Lerner, his model for these images as well as his lover, shortly after their creation in 1925 (see Lots 6, 187, 188, and 189). A variant cropping of the photograph offered here was the cover lot for Sotheby's New York sale in November 1989 (Sale 4474M, Lot 285). In that print, Weston cropped the negative radically to include only Lerner's crossed arms and breasts within the frame. The full-frame print of the image offered here does not appear in the Weston literature. Like the cropped version sold in these rooms in 1989, the print offered here is believed to be unique.
Miriam Lerner (1896 - 1976) was an important model for Weston, and he produced a series of nude studies of her in 1925, at her Edendale (Los Angeles) home, that were unlike any he had done before. Although the two met in 1921, they did not become lovers until 1925. Their passionate nature of their affair is clear from a number of letters Weston sent to Lerner. In January of 1925, after the commencement of their affair, but apparently before Lerner had posed for him, Weston wrote:
'So hail to you lovely Miriam! For you have given me a new beauty to dream upon - I eagerly await the hour when I shall attempt to catch concretely this very loveliness of face and form and attitude long felt by me in you' (Letter, 16 January 1925, from Edward Weston to Miriam Lerner, BANC MSS 67/143 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley).
Minimal in their composition, Weston's nude studies of Miriam Lerner focus solely upon her torso to the exclusion of all other contextual surroundings. This frank, frontal depiction of Lerner's voluptuous body, more so than the other photographs in the Lerner group, is charged with erotic energy - an energy that must have arisen from Weston's romantic involvement with his subject. Each of the Lerner photographs is unhampered by the manipulative effects of Pictorial photography and represents a decisive step toward the brand of sharply-focused Modernist photography that Weston would continue to explore throughout the following decades. Weston himself felt that his nude studies of Lerner led directly to the minimal studies he would execute in Mexico, later in 1925, of Anita Brenner (see Lot 8).
The present photograph and the above-mentioned lots were purchased by collector Eric Read Aitkin from Jacob Zeitlin, of Zeitlin and Ver Brugge Booksellers in Los Angeles in 1969. Zeitlin, who had known Weston and had exhibited the photographer's work during his lifetime, remained connected to various members of L.A.'s bohemian community he had known in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1960s, he sold material on behalf of Miriam Lerner that included a small group of her personal papers and photographs now in the collection of the Bancroft Library at Berkeley, as well as the photographs purchased by Aitkin in 1969, now offered here.
The envelope that accompanied Aitkin's purchase of these photographs (illustrated here) was sent by Weston to Lerner at an address in Brooklyn, New York. As Lerner embarked upon an extended sojourn in France shortly after these photographs were taken, it is possible that the envelope was sent just prior to her departure. Weston annotated the envelope 'c/o Connata,' indicating that Lerner was at this address only temporarily. Further, Weston's Brand Boulevard return address indicates that the envelope was likely posted prior to his own departure for Mexico in August of 1925. Weston returned to his Brand Boulevard address after his Mexican sojourn in late 1926, and remained there until the summer of 1928, and it is possible that the envelope could have been mailed at this time.
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