Edward Weston, ‘Nude on Sand’, 1936, Sotheby's

Mounted, signed and dated in pencil on the mount.

From the Catalogue:
In 1936, Edward Weston made his now-famous series of nude studies of Charis Wilson on the sands of Oceano, California. The photograph offered here is one of the scarcest images from this group. Weston authority Amy Conger notes that two versions of this image exist. When the Project Prints were made in the early 1950s, the negative was flipped horizontally so that Charis’s head was oriented on the right of the image. The present photograph represents the original orientation, with Charis's head at left, and it is exceedingly rare. It is believed that only one other early print of this image has appeared at auction, sold in these rooms in 2007.

Weston's first photographs of the massive sand dunes at Oceano, near Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo, were made in 1934 when he visited the area with fellow photographer Willard Van Dyke. In 1936, Weston revisited Oceano with his lover and eventual wife, Charis Wilson. The couple stayed there several days in an abandoned guest cabin, sharing meals with a group of squatters, known as 'Dunites.' Weston's principle objective was to photograph the area's remarkable sand dunes, and he set out each morning with his unwieldy large view camera, tripod, and a case of loaded film holders. It was on this trip that he produced what are arguably his best-known landscapes.

This excursion also yielded the portraits of Charis on the dunes that are among Weston's most important, modernist nude studies. In his photographic career up to 1936, Weston had already produced a significant number of nude studies, the overwhelming majority of which were made in the studio. It was not until reaching Oceano with Charis in 1936 that Weston was inspired to produce an extended series of outdoor nude studies. In the best of these images, the evenly illuminated nude form, delineated by a thin relief of shadow, is offset perfectly by the balanced mid-tones of the sand background. In the photograph offered here, an exceptional level of detail is visible on Charis’s frame, notably individual grains of sand coating her spine and feet.

Edward Weston authority Amy Conger notes that there are two copies of the variant (with Charis’s head on the right side of the composition) located at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California and a Project Print in the Special Collections, University of California, Santa Cruz.
—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Conger 929 (inverted horizontally)
Edward Weston: Nudes (Aperture, 1973), p. 86
Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Weston's Westons: Portraits and Nudes (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1989), pl. 53
Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Karen Quinn, and Leslie Furth, Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1999), pl. 74
Manfred Heiting, ed., Edward Weston (Cologne, 2004), p. 156
Kurt Markus, Dune: Edward & Brett Weston (Kalispell, 2003), p. 59

Christie's Los Angeles, 13 November 2001, Sale 9832, Lot 190

About Edward Weston

One of the most influential American photographers of the 20th century, Edward Weston is known for his richly detailed and precisely composed black-and-white images of semi-abstract nudes, landscapes, and organic forms including close-up studies of shells, vegetables, and rocks. During a trip to New York in 1922, Weston had a formative encounter with the photographer Alfred Stieglitz; shortly thereafter he traveled to Mexico with his student and mistress Tina Modotti, where he met the artists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. By the spring of 1929 he began to photograph Point Lobos in Carmel, California and developed the style that would distinguish his practice, favoring sharp contrasts and a full tonal scale. He became a founding member of the group f/64 in 1932 along with fellow California photographers Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams, who together advocated for un-manipulated, sharp-focus photography. “To record the quintessence of the object or element before my lens, rather than an interpretation, a superficial phase, or passing mood—this is my way in photography,” he once said.

American, 1886-1958, Highland Park, Illinois, based in Carmel, CA, USA