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Edward Weston: Nudes
Synopses & Reviews
Photographs by Edward Weston
Remembrance by Charis Wilson
Of all the unnoticed works of art in nature revealed by Weston's camera it was the human form that most persistently challenged this great photographer throughout his working life. Erotic, sculptural, and poetic, his nude photographs of lovers, friends, and of his son Neil combine the essentials of physical passion with a desire to go beyond the transitory to a discovery of eternal forms.
In his search for the ideal, Weston concentrated on the fundamental physical aspects of his subjects, empowering his prints with an intrinsic grace and elegance. There is a desire to draw near, and a distant, unknowable sense of sculpture; reflection of universal rhythms, revealing the "vital essence of things."
In his Daybook dated December 9, 1934, Weston wrote, "The first nudes of C. were easily the finest I had done, perhaps the finest." "C" was Charis Wilson, then a girl of 20. For the next ten years, she lived with and posed for Weston, and developed such an instinctive understanding of his style that as they drove through the West on photography expeditions, Weston would often close his eyes and doze while Charis scanned the horizon for "Edward Weston" subject matter. Charis proved so adept at putting Weston's thoughts into words that shortly after they met, he turned over to her all his writing chores.
In the present volume, Charis draws upon her experiences as both model and partner to offer a uniquely informed remembrance not only of Weston's nudes-- which comprise the largest single category of his output-- but also of the man himself. Of her first encounter with Weston's photographs of the nude, Charis writes, "Nothing could have been farther from 'Art Poses' than Edward's nudes, and I was fascinated by their strong individuality as body portraits. At first I had the same trouble with the peppers, dead birds, and eroded planks-- I couldn't get past the simple amazement at how real they were. Then I began to see the rhythmic pattern, the intensely perceived sculptural forms, the subtle modulations of tone, of which these small perfect images were composed. And I began to appreciate the originality of the viewpoint that had selected just these transitory moments and made them fast against the current of time."
Edward Weston...the most highly revered of photographers...his nude photographs emerge in fugues of craft and insight neither nudes nor naked but filled with life.
About the Author
The daughter of Harry Leon Wilson, a popular novelist of the 1920s, Charis Wilson was born in San Francisco on May 5, 1914, and grew up in Carmel. There she met Edward Weston in 1934 and offered to pose for him. For the next ten years, she was Weston's model-- posing for approximately half of all his recorded nudes-- as well as his lover (they were married in 1939). In 1936 Wilson urged Weston to apply for a Guggenheim fellowship, took his original four-line application and turned it into four pages, and helped him become the first photographer ever to win the award. Wilson described the Guggenheim travels in California and the West, published in 1940.
Edward Weston was born March 24, 1886, in Highland Park, Illinois. He made his first photographs in 1902 with a Kodak Bull's Eye #2 camera-- a gift from his father. In 1911, five years after moving to California, he opened his own portrait studio in Tropico (now Glendale), California, and began to earn an international reputation for his work. But it was not until 1922 that he came fully into his own as an artist, with his photographs of the Armco Steel mill in Ohio. During 1923-26 he worked in Mexico and in California, where he lived with his sons, Chandler, Brett, Neil, and Cole. Though he continued to support himself with portrait work, Weston turned increasingly to subjects of his own choosing, such as nudes, clouds, and close-ups of rocks, trees, vegetables, and shells. During 1937-39, on a Guggenheim Fellowship, he traveled and photographed throughout the American West. Three years later, he toured the South and East, taking photographs for a limited edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, until the attack on Pearl Harbor cut short his journey. In 1948 Weston made his last photograph; he had been stricken with Parkinson's disease several years earlier. On January 1, 1958, he died at Wildcat Hill, his home in Carmel, California.
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