Edward Weston - Passion & Humanity: The Susie Tompkins Buell Collection New York Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Charles Isaacs Photographs, Malvern, Pennsylvania, 1990
    Page Imageworks, San Francisco, as agent

  • Exhibited

    Object Lessons: Masterworks of Modernist Photography from Three Bay Area Collections, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 7 December 1995 - 10 March 1996
    Mexico as Muse: Tina Modotti and Edward Weston, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2 September 2006 - 2 January 2007

  • Literature

    Hooks, Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary, p. 63

  • Catalogue Essay

    This photograph is one of a small number of sensual and evocative portraits Edward Weston made of Tina Modotti shortly after their meeting in California in 1921. Weston was captivated by Modotti’s beauty and lively intelligence, and their affair began immediately, despite the fact that both were romantically attached to others: Weston to his then-lover and photographic partner Margrethe Mather, and Modotti to the exotically pseudo-named Oregon-born artist Robo Roubaix de l’Abrie Richey. Weston authority Beth Gates Warren notes that Modotti ‘was completely uninhibited and natural in front of the camera, and Weston’s photographs of her expressive face and shapely body clearly reflect the highly tempestuous nature of their relationship’ (Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather and the Bohemians of Los Angeles, p. 220).

    As with many of Weston’s studies of his lovers, the portrait offered here is a collaborative effort between sitter and photographer: Modotti performs for Weston, and Weston employs his vision and technical skills to create an indelible image. The photograph is emblematic of their already deep, and deepening, relationship, a relationship that lasted only a few years but had a profound effect on them both. Later, the two would move to Mexico together, where Modotti would become not only a photographer of imagination and skill, but an activist in the struggles of the Mexican people. The present portrait is a counterpoint to a study of Weston by Modotti, offered here as lot 42. Taken in Mexico around 1924, that image shows Weston at work with his large-format Korona View camera.

    The photograph is a rare survivor from the dawn of one of the most productive artistic relationships of the 20th century. And like all of the Weston and Modotti photographs in the Buell collection, it dates from the brief years when the photographers were together. As of this writing, no other early print of this photograph has been located. It may have been taken during the same sitting as the photograph Weston entitled Head of an Italian Girl. Amy Conger notes that the negatives from this session appear to have been lost (Conger 69, note).


Tina Modotti

Platinum or palladium print.
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24.1 x 19.1 cm)
Signed, titled and dated in pencil on the mount.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $250,000

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Passion & Humanity: The Susie Tompkins Buell Collection

New York Auction 4 April 2019