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Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration


Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration is the first exhibition to explore the complex relationship this remarkable pair shared for over a decade. They had a profound influence on each other and on the history of photography just before and after the First World War as photography teetered back and forth between pictorialism and modernism. The exhibition features 80 photographs drawn from more than 25 collections and illuminates the often-overlooked body of work of Margrethe Mather, and Weston's work from 1913 to 1925. (right: Edward Weston, Margrethe in GlendaleStudio, ca. 1920, © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents)

As an American photography icon, Edward Weston is widely renowned as one of the twentieth century's most important photographers. Margrethe Mather, however, remains a little known and enigmatic figure, despite her amazing body of work and well- documented artistic collaboration with Weston. Many consider Mather to have been Weston's mentor and teacher. She shared with him her intuitive eye for composition and her innate sense of artistic style. By example she showed him how to edit an image to its very essence. He was introduced to her circle of bohemian friends, who taught him to view life from a variety of perspectives. In turn, Weston encouraged Mather to exhibit her work and compete for recognition.

Edward Weston met Margrethe Mather in Los Angeles in 1913 and the two began a journey that brought them together as companions, lovers, and business associates. In 1921, they even worked as full-fledged artistic partners, co-signing the photographs they produced in a relationship unique in Weston's career. Collaboratively they founded the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles in 1914 that became one of the most important camera clubs and exhibition venues in the country. (right: Margrethe Mather, Fans, 1931. Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona)

Although Weston was stimulated by Mather's intellectual curiosity, and for a time was passionately in love with her, he was also frustrated with her lack of dependability and capricious lifestyle. When Weston departed for Mexico in 1923, he entrusted his Glendale studio to Mather's care. By 1925, she lost interest in sustaining the business and drifted back to her old bohemian haunts on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. She continued to take photographs sporadically until the mid-1930s when she appears to have turned her back on photography altogether.

In the early 1950s, recalling the greatest influences on his career, Edward Weston declared that Margrethe Mather was "the first important person in my life." Until recently, she has been remembered mostly through Weston's commentary and that of William Justema, another artist friend. A smattering of information has been collected by Weston's biographer Ben Maddow, and his daybooks editor Nancy Newhall. The exhibition sheds light on this mysterious figure who had her own very successful career apart from Weston. It firmly places Mather's work within the milieu in which it was created-critically re-evaluating and acknowledging her place in the history of photography. Her work has always held its own in the company of great photographs. Yet, for many years, she remained one of the most forgotten photographers of the twentieth century.

Mather and Weston constantly sought out fresh visual vocabularies to set their work apart from that of their contemporaries. They were never satisfied with the formulaic or predictable approach, even though it could have brought them considerable critical acclaim and financial rewards. They were, in many ways, harmonious spirits who believed that photography was the ultimate means of expression in the modern world.



Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration was co-curated by Beth Gates Warren, former director of Sotheby's New York Department of Photographs, and Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA). The exhibition was organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and made possible by the generous support of the Dana and Albert R. Broccoli Charitable Foundation.


The exhibition is accompanied by the publication Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration (SBMA/W. W. Norton & Company, 2001) which contains an essay by Beth Gates Warren and an introduction by Karen Sinsheimer. The book won the Publishers Marketing Association's 2002 Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in editorial and design. The book retails for $39.95 and is available at the CCP shop. Members receive a 10% discount. (160 pages, 8 12 x 10" with 94 duotone photographs. ISBN 0-393-04157-3.)


The Center for Creative Photography is home to the Edward Weston Archive, representing his life's work and documenting his extensive career. The Center acquired the Edward Weston Archive from his four sons in 1981. The archive includes over 2,000 prints and nearly 10,000 negatives, as well as original daybooks and correspondence. The archive also includes an assortment of records documenting his travels to Mexico, his two Guggenheim Fellowship trips, and a variety of ephemera that relates to his life and career.

The Margrethe Mather Collection was acquired by CCP in the late 1970s through the Witkin Gallery, New York, from Mather's friend, model and collaborator William Justema, who preserved this work. It contains over 150 photographs-the largest collection of her work anywhere-featuring portraits and still lifes, as well as documents of sketches by Justema. Correspondence with and about Mather is included in the Center's Edward Weston archival materials.



Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration


Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved


All programs are free and take place at the Center for Creative Photography.

Reception and Curator's Slide Lecture: Edward Weston and the Late Miss Mather

Friday, August 29, Reception, 5-6 pm/Lecture, 6 pm, Auditorium

Beth Gates Warren, exhibition curator and author of Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration, is an historian of photography and the former director of Sotheby's New York Photographs Department. She has lectured and taught classes at such institutions as The New School, the International Center of Photography, New York University, and the Phillips Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.

Gallery Talk

Bohemians in Los Angeles: The Letters from Mather to Weston

Thursday, September 4, 5:30 pm

Amy Rule, Archivist, Center for Creative Photography, will show Mather's handwritten letters in the Edward Weston Archive and discuss the time and place in which they were written.

Gallery Talk

Decision Making in the Conservation of Weston's Fine Prints

Thursday, September 18, 5:30 pm

The prints exhibited in Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved are a small fraction of the Edward Weston Archive held by the CCP. How were these prints chosen for conservation treatment? What problems made them require attention where others did not? Why was it decided not to treat some prints? Laura Downey Staneff, a conservator of photographs and art on paper who performed the conservation of the fine prints shown in this exhibition, will discuss the project. Downey Staneff works for the University of New Mexico Art Museum, manages a private conservation practice, and holds a Master of Arts in Art Conservation from the State University College at Buffalo.


Gallery Talk

Edward Weston's Negatives: The Preservation Project

Thursday, September 25, 5:30 pm

The 10,000 negatives in Edward Weston's archive have proven to be a treasure trove of imagery for researchers and publications worldwide. Discoveries include previously unpublished portraits of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, African-American sculptor William Edmondson and his studio, and photographer Tina Modotti. Exhibition co-curator and preservation project manager Dianne Nilsen, project consultant Keith Schreiber, and student preservation team members Jim Martin, Chod McClintock and Joseph Oland will show examples of how film ages, and present an overview of a three-year project to duplicate 2,500 collection negatives.


Slide Lecture

Beaumont Newhall on Edward Weston:

Revisiting the Reflections of a Master Historian

Thursday, October 2, 5:30 pm, Auditorium

In 1990, Beaumont Newhall, former Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art and author of The History of Photography: From 1939 to the Present Day, MOMA, New York (1964), presented this slide lecture on Edward Weston at the Center for Creative Photography. Keith McElroy, Associate Professor of Art, the University of Arizona, who was Newhall's first graduate student at the University of New Mexico, will introduce the taped lecture and discuss Newhall and his relationship to Weston.

Slide Lecture

Eyes to the Orient: Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston

Thursday, October 9, 5:30 pm, Auditorium

Before most of their colleagues even cared, Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston were admiring and absorbing diverse manifestations of Asian cultures, some of which were reflected in their photographic work from about 1910 on. Presented by Amy Conger, who wrote her dissertation and has published widely on and around Edward Weston's photographs, his friends and intellectual milieu, including Edward Weston: Photographs, a 1992 catalog of the 1,826 works by him at the Center for Creative Photography.


This program is sponsored, in part, by the Tucson Visiting Artists Consortium.


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Center for Creative Photography - University of Arizona in Resource Library Magazine

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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