- Edward Weston
Acquired by the Quillan Company from the above, 1989
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art at Equitable Center, Twentieth-Century Master American Photographs, January - April 1987, and traveling to:
Stamford, Whitney Museum of American Art, Fairfield County, September - November 1987
Jill Quasha, The Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs (New York, 1991), pl. 12 (this print)
Another print of this image:
Maria Morris Hambourg, Pierre Apraxine, et al., The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century: Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991, in conjunction with the exhibition), pl. 179
Edward Weston made this minimal nude study in 1925, an important year in the development of his mature vision. Taken in California, between his two sojourns in Mexico, this image shows Weston pushing his photography in an entirely new direction. Never before had he photographed a nude with such exclusive intent, removing all anatomical features and context, yielding a photograph that is simultaneously representational and nearly abstract. The Quillan Collection print--on the matte-surface gelatin silver paper Weston favored at the time, mounted, and fully signed and dated--is a rare and early photograph from this period. As of this writing, only two other prints of this image have been located: a gelatin silver print in the Gilman Paper Company Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and an unmounted platinum print sold in these rooms on 6 April 2000 (Sale 7450, Lot 136).
Weston has removed everything non-essential from this photograph's composition and focuses solely upon form. In the development of Weston's handling of the nude, this study begins a progression that extends through his similarly minimalist studies of his son Neil's torso (Conger 170-175) to the stark beauty of his nude studies of Anita Brenner (Conger 186-187) and beyond. This isolation of form relates to a number of photographs made by Weston of other subjects in Mexico during the same period: Palm Tree, Cuernavaca; Excusado; Tres Ollas de Oaxaca; and Maguey, Texcoco, among others. Weston would refine this approach through the 1920s and '30s as he embarked upon his still-life studies of shells, peppers, and other organic forms. His precise handling of the present photograph's subtle gray tones, and its purposeful lack of scale, presage his dune studies of the 1930s.
The subject of the nude study offered here is almost certainly Miriam Lerner, an important model for Weston during this pivotal period in his career. Weston met Lerner in 1921, and the two became lovers in 1925. The photographer executed a series of nudes of Lerner before leaving again for Mexico in the late summer. These include, in addition to the present image, two photographs recorded by Amy Conger in Edward Weston: Photographs (nos. 168 and 169), and three others offered in these rooms on 15 and 16 October 2007 (Sale 8349, Lots 4, 6, and 187). While the subject of the present photograph is not identified, the platinum print of this image sold in these rooms in April 2000 was annotated 'Edendale' by Weston on the reverse. In 1925, Miriam Lerner lived in Edendale, then a suburb of Los Angeles, and Weston's photographs of her were made there. Other identified studies of Lerner (cf. Sotheby's New York, 15 and 16 October 2007, Sale 8349, Lot 4) were also annotated 'Edendale' by Weston.