Feb 15, 2024 - Sale 2659

Sale 2659 - Lot 11

Price Realized: $ 20,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 8,000 - $ 12,000
EDWARD WESTON (1886-1958)
Civilian Defense. Silver print, the image measuring 7½x9½ inches (19.1x24.1 cm.), with Weston's title and date in pencil, the negative number in pencil in an unknown hand, and Dody Weston Thompson's signature also in pencil, and Weston's facsimile signature stamp, on verso. 1942

Provenance: Dody Weston Thompson Collection; to the Collection of Dr. James and Debra Pearl

This photograph depicts Charis Wilson, who was then Weston's wife and muse. During WWII, Charis volunteered for the Aircraft Warning Service, a civilian group that monitored the coastline for enemy plates, and because of this she was issued a gas mask. When she brought it home, Weston suggested making a series of nudes. Charis recalled later, "I think this aspect gave Edward more trouble than he anticipated. He kept saying it was too awful and that it was hard to make it be part of the picture and not the picture. Once he went out and broke off a fern to use as a counterweight; he also tried a plate of peaches." The image resists easy interpretation, a wartime composition that expresses uncertainty and uneasy beauty, while showcasing Weston's mastery of form, texture, and print quality.

Prints of this image are scarce. The negative is not owned by the Center for Creative Photography, the repository for Weston's negatives. Amy Conger's Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography (CCP/The University of Arizona), includes an alternate image from this sitting (cat. no. 1695/1942), a vertical variant (including the peaches). This negative was saved from destruction by Bea Predergast. Weston, though, insisted that both images be included in his 1946 retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art.