Edward Weston - Photographs Evening & Day New York Wednesday, October 5, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist, 1925
    By descent from the original owner
    Private Collection, California

  • Catalogue Essay

    For additional images cited in this essay, please reference the printed catalogue or catalogue pdf available online.

    The gorgeous and unabashedly sensual photograph being offered is the only known print of this image. It is from a famous series of photographs by Edward Weston of his lover Tina Modotti on a tiled rooftop (azotea) in Mexico in 1924. Hereto unknown, this perhaps unique palladium print was either given or sold (it has the price written in pencil on the print verso in Weston’s hand) to a friend and fellow photographer of Japanese American descent at the time of Weston’s 1925 exhibition at the Shaku-do-sha Camera Club, a Japanese Camera Club on First Street in Los Angeles. It was recently rediscovered when purchased by a California collector as part of a group of Weston prints, several of which are well known today but others, particularly those from Weston’s early days in Mexico, had been lost in history.

    In his essay, “Dating Edward Weston’s Tina on the Azotea,” (fig 4) Thomas Knight argues that Tina on the Azotea, typically dated 1923, was in fact one from a group of photographs taken in 1924 which he refers to as “Weston’s only known photographic record of a model disrobing…” Though Knight does not reference the current lot, presumably because scholars were not aware of its existence, its placement within the group is clear. The series begins with Weston’s image of Tina wrapped in her kimono, Hands against Kimono. The negative for this image resides in the Weston archive at the Center for Creative Photography along with that of the fourth image in the series. The second image Knight identifies depicts a loosening of the kimono to expose Modotti’s left breast and the top of her pubic hair. Though the whereabouts of this negative is unknown, a vintage print of it is in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In the third image, Modotti’s kimono is completely removed but remains in the picture draped on the floor of the azotea in front of where Modotti is now positioned: outstretched, back to the camera, resting on her left forearm. Again no negative of this image is in the Weston archive though a vintage print of it is in the Lane Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Given its striking similarity to the third image, Knight submits that the famous full frontal nude of Modotti lying on her back with the kimono now completely removed from the frame, Tina on the Azotea, is the final photograph in the series.

    Knight points out that in all the images of Tina on the Azotea, the subject is lit from overhead by a strong Mexican sunlight that casts a distinct shadow directly below. It is this analysis of light, shadow and the positioning of the kimono that allows us to offer a specific placement of the present lot within this series. In the second image, the heavy shadow falls not on the floor (which is not in the picture) but rather right below her breast. Here, the shadows of Modotti’s legs fall directly below to the floor interlocking the form of her body with the azotea. It is therefore conceivable that the image was taken third for, as with the first and second images, the kimono, with its dark background and geometric patterning, still plays an active part in the image, draped carefully in the background to frame her torso. In the final two images, by contrast, Modotti’s kimono is fully set aside.

    Of further note is the fact that Weston’s vertical image of Modotti with her arms down and kimono open (fig 2) and this horizontal nude have both been cropped by the artist from an 8 x 10 in. contact print which, in both cases, serves to emphasize the elongated form of Weston’s subject.

    Knight concludes that Weston’s series of photographs of Tina on the Azotea "is a….startling visual metaphor for his stylistic evolution while in Mexico from pictorialism, often employing elements of Japonisme, to the stark simplicity of modernism." For indeed while previously working in California Japonisme was a significant component of Weston’s vocabulary, but in the series of Tina on the Azotea the great American Modern Master literally sheds his last vestiges of pictorial symbols in the bright Mexican sun. Twelve years later Weston would again take another historic series of nudes in strong sunlight this time of his lover and model Charis on the Oceana Dunes.


Untitled (Tina on the Azotea, with Kimono)

Palladium print.
5 3/4 x 8 1/2 in. (14.6 x 21.6 cm)
Annotated in pencil on the verso.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $87,500

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Photographs Evening & Day

New York 5 & 6 October 2016