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
Another print of this image:
Nancy Newhall, Edward Weston: The Flame of Recognition (Aperture, 1967), p. 17
Like the photographs in Lots 4, 187, 188, and 189, this print was given by Weston to its subject, Miriam Lerner, likely in 1925. It is reproduced only once in the Weston literature: in Nancy Newhall's Flame of Recognition, which does not list a source for the illustration. As of this writing, it is believed that this is the only print of this image to have appeared at auction, and likely one of the very few prints extant.
Weston executed his unprecedented series of nude studies of Miriam Lerner in 1925, shortly before he departed for Mexico late in the summer of that year. Around the same time, Lerner traveled to Europe for an extended sojourn that saw her take up occupation as Emma Goldman's secretary. The photographer and his model maintained a correspondence that included Weston sending Lerner prints of their session together. From Mexico, he wrote to Lerner that he had sent her a group of proofs 'from our last sitting--or was it "lying"? I hope they reach you safe. Someone seeing your lovely body may wish to steal one!'
Weston was sufficiently excited by the Lerner nudes to show them to his artist friends in Mexico. He writes to Lerner, 'They have been well liked by [Jean] Charlot - [Diego] Rivera - Tina [Modotti] and others' (Conger 169).
This photograph is one of two of the Lerner nudes in which she is reclining. In the other image (Conger 168, Weston negative number 40N), Lerner's torso is twisted so that one breast and her buttocks are visible, rendering it a recognizable, if adventurously-composed, nude study. In the present image, Weston has eliminated any immediately recognizable anatomical landmarks, and the image moves much closer to complete abstraction. This photograph is the start of a progression that extends through Weston's similarly minimalist studies of his son Neil's torso (Conger 170-175), also made in 1925, to the stark beauty of his subsequent nude studies of Anita Brenner (see Lot 8), and beyond. The sloping forms of Lerner's body in the present photograph, and the purposeful lack of a sense of scale, render the image a precursor to the dune landscapes Weston would make in the following decade.
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