• Photographs: The Evening Sale auction at Christies

    Sale 12203

    Photographs: The Evening Sale

    4 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 15

    Edward Weston (1886–1958)

    Shells, 6S, 1927

    Estimate

    Edward Weston (1886–1958)
    Shells, 6S, 1927
    matte surface gelatin silver print, hinged to later mount
    signed, dated and annotated 'Glendale' in pencil (verso); signed and dated (original overmat, recto); signed and dated in pencil on affixed portion of original mount
    image/sheet: 7 1/2 x 9 3/8 in. (19 x 23.8 cm.)
    mount: 12 7/8 x 15 3/4 in. (32.4 x 40 cm.)


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    Weston’s seductively simple still-lifes resonate as strongly today as when they were made, almost one hundred years ago. None more so than the shells. Fourteen different negatives of shells are recorded in his log for 1927. Placed in front of a dark background and photographed with the utmost precision and delicacy, they elicited some of the strongest critical responses to Weston’s work. The artist sent two prints to Tina Modotti in Mexico, who replied that 'There is something so pure and at the same time so perverse about them… They are mystical and erotic.' Weston himself wrote in his daybook in July of 1927, 'I am not blind to the sensuous quality in shells with which they combine the deepest spiritual significance.'

    Shells, 6S is the rarest of the pictures of Weston’s iconic series of shell studies, and was used as the cover of Amy Conger’s classic timeline of the artist's’ work, Edward Weston: Photographs. '6S' indicates that this is the sixth negative in the series. It is believed that this print of Shells, 6S is the only vintage print of the image in private hands. According to Conger, along with Weston’s journals housed at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, there are six extant prints. All other vintage prints of this image are in the following institutional collections: The Art Institute of Chicago; The George Eastman Museum, Rochester; The Huntington Library, California; The Oakland Museum, California; and the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson.

    This print was a gift to friend and neighbor Arthur Millier. Millier was an artist and art critic of the The Los Angeles Times and was close with Weston and Merle Armitage. Millier 'served with both of them on the Public Works of Art Project. He was an etcher and beginning in 1925 he was an art critic for the Los Angeles Times,' according to Conger. The present owner is the stepdaughter of Millier, who was a neighbor in Santa Monica Canyon when Edward Weston moved to Mesa Road with Neil, Brett and Cole in June 1935-1937. She remained a good friend of Brett Weston throughout his life.

    The verso of the print offered here bears Weston’s signature along with the word 'Glendale' and is dated '1927'. The toned matte surface print was mounted vertically, per Weston’s usual treatment of the period, signed and dated on the mount in the artist’s hand. Millier wishing to frame the piece horizontally, had the mount trimmed, and the photograph over-matted and framed; Weston then signed and dated the recto of the overmat. The signature and date from the original mount has been preserved.

    Provenance

    The artist;
    gifted from the above to the family of Arthur Millier (1906–1975);
    by descent to the present owner.


    Literature

    Edward Weston, Photography—An Eighth Art?, The Argus, vol. 3, no. 4-5, July/August 1928, p. 3.
    Merle Armitage, Fifty Photographs, Edward Weston, Duell, Sloan & Pearce, New York, 1947, pl. 28.
    Look, Cowles Media, Des Moines, Iowa, July 4, 1950, p. 95.
    Edward Weston, The Daybooks, Volume II, Aperture, Millerton, 1973, pl. 3.
    Beaumont Newhall, Supreme Instants: The Photography of Edward Weston, The Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, 1986, cat. 144, pl. 28.
    Amy Conger, Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, 1992, cover and fig. 549/1927.