Gelatin silver print.
The Dayton Art Institute. Gift of Mr. & Mrs. John W. Longstreth.
On this site you have seen us present elements of Edward Westons’ work. We have given away DVD documentaries of his life.
Here we share with you an article by a terrific writer, Deborah Hornblow, and let you know about a great exhibit of his work. Located in Hartford Conn. the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is presenting an incredible body of work of this man.
If you are in the area or can travel there, you don’t want to miss this.
You may also want to pick up a copy of his Daybooks[photopress:0893814458.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg,full,centered]
Inspirational reading for sure.
“Drawn from the collection of The Dayton Art Institute and the collection of Edward Weston’s grandnephew, this exhibition of more than one hundred vintage gelatin silver prints serves as a retrospective of a pioneering modernist and an undisputed master of twentieth-century photography.
Debunking The Myth Of Edward Weston
By DEBORAH HORNBLOW
“When the Mexican painter Diego Rivera first saw Edward Weston’s iconic photographs of a nautilus shell in the late 1920s, he was physically overwhelmed – “My forehead is sweating,” he wrote – and he pronounced his friend’s work “biological.”
When Weston’s mistress, actress and aspiring photographer Tina Modotti saw the images, she hailed them for their “purity of vision.”
Friend Rene D’Harnoncourt, who would go on to become director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote to tell Weston that the photographs had made him “weak in the knees.”
Weston knew that with his shell pictures he had crossed a threshold in the field of photography. An avid diarist and letter writer whose copious “Daybooks” provide a record of his thoughts and activities, Weston wrote in 1927, “I worked with clearer vision of sheer aesthetic form. I knew that I was recording from within, my feeling for life as I never had before.”
The nautilus images proved a turning point in Weston’s career and marked a critical phase in his development as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, a pioneering modernist whose stunning simplicity and technical mastery are often imitated but never quite equaled.
But along with the growing appreciation for Weston’s work, there developed what became known to some as “the Weston myth.”
Almost from the start of his career, Weston’s images of dead trees, wrecked automobiles and bird skeletons inspired critics to label him “morbid” and “obsessed with death.” Meanwhile, his personal life opened him to charges of philandering and desertion. Having moved from his native Illinois to Southern California in the early 1900s, Weston married Flora Chandler (whose California family went on to found the Los Angeles Times). The couple produced four sons between 1910 and 1919, and for a time they managed a settled domestic life in a town called Tropico (now Glendale). Weston ran a portrait studio out of a small wooden shack in the back yard. But the photographer began to feel stagnant, and in 1923 he made his first trip to Mexico with his mistress and his eldest son. What followed was a growing estrangement from Flora, divorce, multiple affairs, a second marriage to Charis Wilson and agonized separations from his beloved boys. Weston’s unconventional lifestyle prompted some to label him a “womanizer,” a selfish genius and “brooding loner” who would desert his wife and children for the sake of his art.
In “Edward Weston: A Photographer’s Love of Life,” a traveling exhibition that opens Saturday at Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, curator Alexander Nyerges debunks this myth and captures Weston’s passion for life and his pursuit of simplicity in photography.
Putting together the show, Nyerges had the great advantage of cooperation from Weston’s great nephew Jack Longstreth, the son of Weston’s devoted sister Mary. Longstreth’s wife, Dede, and other members of the Weston clan opened the family archives, loaning Nyerges research materials and raiding their private collections to loan numerous works to the traveling show. The Dayton Institute of Art, which houses an extensive Weston collection (many of the works donated by the Longstreths), also loaned materials and prints for the show.
Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and former director and CEO of the Dayton Institute, was also able to speak with Wilson, who is regarded as Weston’s great love. It was she who was, “wife, lover, cook, writer, homemaker, companion … soul mate …and chauffeur” to Weston for what is regarded as “the most productive and important phase of his career,” Nyerges writes in the exhibition’s insightful and handsomely produced catalog.
The result of Nyerges’ efforts is to present viewers with an image of Weston that is as elemental and organic as one of his great photographs.
The Weston exhibition includes roughly 100 vintage gelatin silver prints, luminous black-and-white photographs ranging from Weston’s early portraits to his career-defining shots of vegetables and shells to the landscapes in his adopted home of California and the “Leaves of Grass” project he did, crisscrossing America to put images to Walt Whitman’s poetry. It also includes a handful of his late Kodachrome color prints for Kodak.
“A number of these works were exhibited in the late 1970s, but they have never been seen before in the context of Weston as they are in this exhibit,” writes Nyerges by e-mail. “Through [the photographer's] letters, journals and other correspondence, we are able to gain a better appreciation for Weston the man – a true lover of life – his family, his friends, and those that surrounded him. Most of all, though, is his love of life seen through the exacting eye of Weston and his camera.”
And what a love it was.
Weston’s affair with the camera began at age 16 when his father, the physician Edward Burbank Weston, gave his son a Kodak box camera, No. 2 Bulls-Eye model, and the following advice about how to use it:
“Don’t try to take any inside views, which require a time exposure. … Always have the sun behind or to the side – never so it shines into the instrument – Don’t be too far from the object you wish to take, or it will be very small … You can only take 12 pictures, so don’t waste any on things of no interest.”
It would take quite an eye to find the “interest” in a cabbage sprout or a bunch of bananas, but Weston’s gift was to exalt the mundane, to find the beauty and sensuality in the simplest, most ordinary objects – peppers, seashells, a dune of sand. “No, nature cannot be improved upon,” Weston wrote.
His aim, he said, was to help people see differently.
“I tried my lifelong to open the eyes of everyone – my own eyes too – by showing how extraordinary the most simple things in this wide and wonderful world are,” Weston says in “The Naked Eye.”
Weston’s influence is incalculable. It is impossible today to visit a contemporary photo gallery or to pick up an issue of a food magazine – stuffed with artfully photographed fruits or vegetables – without seeing work derivative of the master.
“Weston’s greatest contribution to photography and art has been to allow us to see the world around us better,” writes Nyerges in his e-mail. “Through his lens, Weston was able to distill the most common elements of our world in a manner that was masterful in its simplicity and its aesthetic power. He helped define what we think of as quintessential Modernism but did so through an appreciation of nature rather than the industrial world that so interested his contemporaries.”
Writing to the Guggenheim Foundation in 1937 in pursuit of a grant, Weston put his own aim thusly:
“My work purpose, my theme, can most clearly be stated as the recognition, recording and presentation of the interdependence, the relativity of all things – the universality of basic form. In a single day’s work, within a radius of a mile, I might discover and record the skeleton of a bird, a blossoming fruit tree, a cloud, a smokestack; each of these being only a part of the whole, but each – in itself – becoming a symbol of the whole, of life.”
EDWARD WESTON: A PHOTOGRAPHER’S LOVE OF LIFE opened Saturday 9/16 /06 at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford and continues through Dec. 3.
A gallery talk with curator Alexander Nyerges will be Nov. 2 at 6 p.m.
For more information and other Weston-related events, visit Wadsworth Atheneum Musuem of Art or call 860-278-2670.
Deborah Hornblow can be reached at email@example.com