Edward Weston - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired from the artist
    Private Collection, Midwest; to the present Private Collection

  • Literature

    Aperture, The Daybooks of Edward Weston, pl. 5
    Armitage, Art of Edward Weston, p. 5
    Bulfinch Press, On the Art of Fixing a Shadow: 150 Years of Photography, pl. 259
    Bulfinch Press, Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism, pl. 38
    Conger, Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography, fig. 606
    Harry N. Abrams, Inc., An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital The Hallmark Photographic Collection, pl. 207
    Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Edward Weston Forms of Passion, p.171
    Haworth-Booth, The Folio Society Book of the 100 Greatest Photographs, p. 115
    Lodima Press, Edward Weston: Life Work. Photographs from the collection of Judith G.Hochberg and Michael P. Mattis, pl. 43
    Museum Ludwig, Sammlung Gruber, Photographie des 20. Jahrhunderts, p. 131
    Newhall, Light vs. Lighting, p. 18
    Newhall, Supreme Instants: The Photography of Edward Weston, cat. 150
    Rodriguez, The Art of Edward Weston, p. 37
    Stebbins, Quinn, & Furth, Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism, pl. 38

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Edward Weston’s masterpiece Pepper No. 30, 1930, an ordinary object is transformed into a profound presence. Powerful yet simple, this icon of American Modernism has embedded itself in our social consciousness. It is widely regarded as one of the most recognizable images in the history of art. Pepper No. 30 alters our perception. In it, a very particular pepper (rotspot and all) expands from something we see into that which we know. To view it is to enter a world where the ordinary is transformed into the extraordinary.

    It is a classic, completely satisfying -a pepper-but more than a pepper: abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter. It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind…take one into an inner reality –the absolute,- with a clear understanding, a mystic revealment. This is the “significant presentation” that I mean, the presentation through one’s intuitive self, seeing “through one’s eyes, not with them”: the visionary.
    Edward Weston, Day Books, August 8, 1930

    What Weston called the “the significant presentation” is perceived in Pepper No. 30 as vital beauty residing in the everyday. To be confronted with such heightened ordinariness is to activate our awareness of existence - the pepper’s and our own. The role of the art-viewer before Modernism was to see what the artist intended. With Modernism, and its search for a utopian answer to the social, political and economic strife between World War I and World War II, intention was no longer relevant; the viewer became a participant and sensorial perception became the experience. László Moholy-Nagy, Weston’s European contemporary, wrote of this new relationship in which the art-viewer “experiences a heightening of his own faculties, and becomes himself an active partner with the forces unfolding themselves.” Weston concurred with this new role of art – and the camera.

    To present the significance of facts, so that they are transformed from things seen to things known. Wisdom controlling the means – the camera – presents this knowledge in communicable form, so the spectator participates in the revelation.
    Edward Weston, Statement, 1931

    In the photograph being offered, the interplay of light and shadow along the smooth firm skin of the pepper, defines the swelling, swirling curves of its voluminous form. It is a dynamic image - with upward thrusting and inward curving movement. Yet ultimately what we experience is a peaceful whole. The light, an encompassing glow, delivers a pepper from its earth-bound existence to a Modernist vision of the coherence, power and rhythm of life.

    Life is a coherent whole: rocks, clouds, trees, shells, torso, smokestack, peppers, are interrelated, interdependent parts of the whole. Rhythm from one becomes symbols of all.
    Edward Weston, Statement, 1930

    As with all of Weston’s still-life studies, Pepper No. 30 was shot with a large-format camera mounted on a tripod. The clarity of his negative came from the artist’s insistence on keeping the camera’s lens opening as small as possible - for as long as possible. Weston wrote that he used panchromatic film, pyro-soda developer, and after the late 1920s, made contact prints on glossy Chloro-bromide paper.

    The print being offered was acquired directly from the artist in 1949. It is a glossy contact print mounted on a warm-toned, large-format, exhibition mount. Weston likely titled, dated and signed the mount at the time of the sale - for one can see the shake in the artist’s hand, a result of his worsening Parkinson’s disease, as he rounds out the letters. What is being offered here is a Masterpiece, printed by the master himself, and signed at the end of his career, before his legacy was passed to his sons. Ben Maddox ended his biography on Edward Weston with a bow to the prints made by the master: “A Weston print vibrates. Energy streams from its gradation and contrast of tone. Its creator, born so long ago, is by that token, alive too.”

    Other prints of this image are in the collections of the George Eastman House, Rochester; Harry Ramson Center at The University of Texas at Austin; Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the Los Angels County Museum of Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


Pepper No. 30

Gelatin silver print, printed no later than 1949.
9 3/8 x 7 1/2 in. (23.8 x 19.1 cm)
Signed, titled ‘Pepper’ and dated in pencil on the reverse of the mount; initialed and dated in pencil on the mount.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
+ 1 212 940 1245


2 October 2012
New York