Oct 05 at 12:00 PM - Sale 2647 -

Sale 2647 - Lot 69

Estimate: $ 70,000 - $ 100,000
EDWARD WESTON (1886-1958)
Shells. Silver print, the image measuring 9 1/8x6 1/2 inches (23.2x16.5 cm.), the mount 14x10 1/2 inches (35.6x26.7 cm.), with Weston's initials and date in pencil on the buff-colored mount recto; in a period wooden frame measuring 15 3/8x12 5/8 inches (39x32 cm.). 1927; printed 1940s

Accompanied by a handwritten and signed letter on Weston's Carmel, California letterhead to the original owner regarding the purchase of the photograph.

Provenance: Acquired directly from Edward Weston by the Present Owner in the early 1950s

Amy Conger, Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography (CCP/The University of Arizona), cat. no. 550/1927

Edward Weston's stature as one of the foremost practitioners of the medium is exemplified by Shells, a stunning and rare work that showcases his unparalleled ability to render form and texture. The composition features three shells, carefully composed on a plain black background. The smooth sheen of the nautilus at the top contrasts with the abalone at the bottom, a deceptively simple consideration of form. "I am not blind to the sensuous quality in shells," he wrote in his daybook in July of 1927, "with which they combine the deepest spiritual significance." These elements are not lost here either, the third element, after composition and print quality, that make Weston's shells one of his towering achievements. Their luminescence, their purity, their elevation to icon, allowed the viewer to see them both as a thing of the natural world and a thing of their imagination.

In 1927, the negative date for the work offered here, Weston was introduced to the artist Henrietta Shore. She had been painting shells for many years, and the introduction to the theme was meaningful to Weston who wrote, "I think the Chambered Nautilus has one of the most exquisite forms, to say nothing of color and texture, in nature. I was awakened to shells by the painting of Henry . . . Henry's influence, or stimulation, I see not just in shell subject matter, it is in all my late work,-in the bananas and the nudes. I feel it not as an extraneous garnish but as a freshened tide swelling from within myself." Weston became obsessed with arranging shells and lighting in his Glendale studio, writing about barricading doors and asking his son Brett to tread lightly in order not to disturb the balanced shells, waiting all day for the light to be most advantageous.

Early prints of Shells (7S) are scarce. Weston's negative records prints numbered 12 through 18, with print 14 and print 15 described later in the log as "destroyed." Conger locates six prints in institutions, at least three of which are Project Prints. A print of the image was exhibited in Weston's 1928 show at the East/West Gallery in San Francisco and may have been in the Film und Foto show in Stuttgart in 1929. It was included in his retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in 1946. But few early prints have appeared at auction.