Imogen Cunningham, ‘Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather’, 1922, Phillips

From the Catalogue:

In 1922, Imogen Cunningham and her husband Roi Partridge stayed at the home of Flora and Edward Weston. While Partridge was working on an exhibition of his etchings, Cunningham joined Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston in their studio next to Weston’s home, and took a series of portraits of the two cohorts. The photograph being offered was Cunningham’s favorite of the day.

Weston wrote in his Daybooks that Mather was "the first important person" in his life. They met in 1913 in the Los Angeles area at a time Weston was married with children and ran a portrait studio on the grounds of his home. Mather meanwhile, was a freethinking self-taught photographer who travelled in a bohemian circle of artists, writers, and actors, many of whom were advocates of social and political change. First she was his model, but as with Tina Modotti, she soon became his artistic collaborator, and in 1921 Weston and Mather went as far as both signing a group of photographs that came out of the Glendale studio.

The present lot artfully shows Edward Weston draped in shadow, veiling his expression, with Mather leaning back upon his shoulder — temple, hair and hands captured as delicate highlights.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: Signed, dated in pencil on the mount; printed credit label on the reverse of the mount.

Dater, Imogen Cunningham: A Portrait, pl. 13
Gates Warren, Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration, cover

About Imogen Cunningham

One of the first professional female photographers in America, Imogen Cunningham is best known for her botanical photography, though she also produced images of nudes, industrial landscapes, and street scenes. After studying photography in Germany, Cunningham opened a portrait studio in Seattle, producing soft-focus allegorical prints in the tradition of Pictorialism—a style of photography influenced by academic painting from the turn of the century—as well as portraiture. From the early 1920s she began to take close-up, sharply detailed studies of plant life and other natural forms, including a two-year-long, in-depth study of the magnolia flower. In 1932 she joined an association of West Coast modernist photographers known as f64, rejecting sentimental soft-focus subjects in favor of greater sensuousness. Cunningham was also interested in human subjects and frequently took pictures of the hands of musicians and artists. Edward Weston was a supporter of her work, and she associated at various times with other iconic 20th-century photographers, including Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Dorothea Lange.

American, 1883-1976, Portland, Oregon, based in San Francisco, California