Pepper II

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  • Condition Report

  • Provenance

    Swann Galleries, New York, 29 October 1987, lot 422
    Collection of Daniel Newburg
    Christie’s, New York, 29 April 1999, lot 151

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Edward Weston knows, and in his work shows, that for richness and mystery, the pepper is subject matter equal to the poet.” -- The Carmelite, 7 August 1929

    In 1929, Edward Weston began his now famous series of photographs of peppers. While his negative log lists one photograph of a pepper made in 1927 (later destroyed), he only began to address the subject matter in earnest in 1929. He would ultimately produce a total of twenty-six 8-by-10-inch negatives of peppers in that year and, based upon his daybook entries, it seems probable that most of them were made in July and August.

    In 1929 Weston was newly arrived in Carmel after his Mexican sojourns and time spent in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The relocation marked a decisive change in his life and work, and his pepper still-lives represented the first of the great series that would occupy him for the rest of his career. In peppers he found extremely photogenic subject matter, compelling for their variety of shapes (he loved their ‘marvelous convolutions’) and a glossy surface that was rendered as a deep gray in his final prints. In a daybook entry, he notes that he made eight negatives in one remarkable session: ‘July 8th, 1929 I will remember as an important day—and I feel the beginning of an important period—in my work’ (Daybooks, p. 128).

    Weston’s photographic practice was austere but effective. He worked with one large-format camera and a small selection of lenses, and used no studio lighting. He had reduced his equipment to what was absolutely necessary, and it was in this minimalism that he was most creative. Working within this narrow technical framework Weston experimented widely with his pepper studies, photographing both indoors and outdoors, in direct and indirect sunlight, and using an array of different materials as backgrounds, including burlap, glass dinner plates, and even a metal funnel. In Pepper II, Weston used a ceramic or porcelain bowl as a backdrop. The presence of a definitive shadow beneath the pepper suggests that he made this photograph outside in direct sunlight.

    Weston did not work in a vacuum, nor did this project go unnoticed. His close friend Ramiel McGehee reliably brought him fresh subject matter from the green market. In August 1929, the local paper cautioned: ‘Do not disturb Edward Weston too suddenly in his studio these days. He is working upon peppers. Green peppers. For an hour at a time he alternates between his camera under the black hood, and from his subject, one green glossy fruit . . . Edward Weston knows, and in his work shows, that for richness and mystery, the pepper is subject matter equal to the poet’ (The Carmelite, 7 August 1929, Courtesy Paula B. Freedman & Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco, California).

    This photograph is not represented in the near-definitive Edward Weston collection at the Center for Creative Photography. As of this writing, no other early print of the image has been identified and the photograph offered here may be unique.

32

Pepper II

1929
Gelatin silver print.
9 1/4 x 7 3/8 in. (23.5 x 18.7 cm)
Signed, titled and dated in pencil on the mount; annotated '10.00' in pencil on the reverse of the mount.

Estimate
$70,000 - 90,000 

Place Advance Bid
Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas

+212 940 1245
 

Photographs

New York Auction 14 October 2020