21
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘Edward Weston. Leaves of Grass’ at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 21st April 2012 - 31st December 2012

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“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
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It is not far, It is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know,
Perhaps it is every where on water and land.”

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Walt Whitman. Part of Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass. 1855

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Very little information about this exhibition on the website which is a pity because the photographs are exceptional, even if some do recall the style of other artists of the same era (Charles Sheeler, Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Clarence John Laughlin, and Walker Evans for example).

In 1941, “Weston was commissioned to take photographs for a pricey two-volume edition of “Leaves of Grass.” So over the course of nearly 10 months, Weston and his wife, Charis, drove more than 24,000 miles, through 24 states. Of the nearly 700 photographs he developed, he sent 74 to the publisher. Forty-nine appeared in the book.” (Mark Feney) “Over the course of the project Weston managed to produce some of the most compelling images of his later career that took his photography in a new and important direction. Like Whitman’s epic poems, they draw us into the history of this nation, the beauty of its landscape and the forthrightness of its ordinary citizens.” (Encore)

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“Leaves of Grass has its genesis in an essay called The Poet by Ralph Waldo Emerson, published in 1845, which expressed the need for the United States to have its own new and unique poet to write about the new country’s virtues and vices. Whitman, reading the essay, consciously set out to answer Emerson’s call as he began work on the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman, however, downplayed Emerson’s influence, stating, “I was simmering, simmering, simmering; Emerson brought me to a boil.”

The first edition was published in Brooklyn at the Fulton Street printing shop of two Scottish immigrants, James and Andrew Rome, whom Whitman had known since the 1840s, on July 4, 1855. Whitman paid for and did much of the typesetting for the first edition himself. Sales on the book were few but Whitman was not discouraged. The first edition was very small, collecting only twelve unnamed poems in 95 pages. Whitman once said he intended the book to be small enough to be carried in a pocket. “That would tend to induce people to take me along with them and read me in the open air: I am nearly always successful with the reader in the open air.” About 800 were printed, though only 200 were bound in its trademark green cloth cover.

The title Leaves of Grass was a pun. “Grass” was a term given by publishers to works of minor value and “leaves” is another name for the pages on which they were printed. Whitman sent a copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass to Emerson, the man who had inspired its creation. In a letter to Whitman, Emerson said “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed.” He went on, “I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy.”

Text from Amazon website

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Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Edward Weston. 'Grand Canyon, Arizona' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Grand Canyon, Arizona
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Boulder Dam' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Boulder Dam
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'From 515 Madison Avenue, New York' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
From 515 Madison Avenue, New York
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Shenandoah Valley, Virginia' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Mammy’s Cupboard, Natchez, Mississippi' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Mammy’s Cupboard, Natchez, Mississippi
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Woodlawn Plantation House, Louisiana' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Woodlawn Plantation House, Louisiana
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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“In 1941, the Limited Editions Club of New York invited photographer Edward Weston to illustrate its deluxe edition of Walt Whitman’s epic poem Leaves of Grass. The commission inspired Weston and his wife, Charis, to take a cross-country trip, throughout the South, the Mid-Atlantic states, New England, and back to California, in their trusty Ford, which they nicknamed “Walt.” Weston’s photographs from this project – mostly made with large, 8 x 10 camera – are exceptionally wide-ranging, with a particular focus on urban and man-altered landscapes. Although he never wanted his images to literally reflect Whitman’s text, Weston did relate to the poet’s plainspoken style and his emphasis on the broad spectrum of human experience. Weston wrote of the Whitman book: “I do believe . . . I can and will do the best work of my life. Of course I will never please everyone with my America – wouldn’t try to.”

Text from the MFA Boston website

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Edward Weston. 'Girod Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Girod Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Meraux Plantation House, Louisiana' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Meraux Plantation House, Louisiana
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Belle Grove Plantation House, Louisiana' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Belle Grove Plantation House, Louisiana
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Bessie Jones. St. Simons Island, Georgia' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Bessie Jones. St. Simons Island, Georgia
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Edward Weston. 'Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Fry, Burnet, Texas' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Fry, Burnet, Texas
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Part of Walt Whitman 'Song of Myself' from 'Leaves of Grass' 1855

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Walt Whitman
Part of Song of Myself
from Leaves of Grass
1855

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Edward Weston. 'Charis Wilson' 1941

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Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Charis Wilson
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 4.45pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 9.45pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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