FRAME|WORK: Halved Cabbage by Edward Weston

Tomorrow, most of us will sit down with family and friends to enjoy a cornucopia of Thanksgiving comestibles that will leave many satiated to the point of sickness. In preparation, this week’s FRAME|WORK takes a closer look at Edward Weston’s Halved Cabbage, whose beauty and detail give new meaning to the concept of good taste.

Edward Weston (American, 1886–1958). Halved Cabbage, 1930. Gelatin silver print. Museum Purchase, M. H. deYoung Memorial Museum, 1931. 53942

Edward Weston (1886–1958) first arrived in California in 1906 only to realize that he required more training to make a living as a photographer. He enrolled in a nine-month program at the Illinois School of Photography and fulfilled the course requirements in a mere six months. Unfortunately, the school refused to grant Weston a diploma unless he paid for the full nine-month term, which he refused. In 1908, Weston left Illinois (without his diploma) and returned to California to begin his career as a photographer in earnest.

California provided plentiful source material for Weston’s photography. It was the tide pools and rock formations on the beaches of Carmel that inspired the photographer to examine fruits and vegetables up close, as seen here in Weston’s iconic Halved Cabbage. Fascinated by the variety of shapes he encountered on the shores of the Pacific, Weston began to look more closely at everyday objects including shells, cabbages, and ultimately the bell peppers for which he is best known.

In 1927, Weston’s photographs were the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Legion of Honor. Three years later his work was shown again at the de Young, and the following year the museum acquired Halved Cabbage.

Weston’s second exhibition at the de Young led to the formation of the important photographic alliance Group f/64. Comprising Bay Area photographers like Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham as well as Weston, Group f/64 espoused sharp-focused photography that highlighted the precision of the medium. Together, they built on the success of Weston’s solo exhibition, and they convinced the de Young to host a group show that debuted Group f/64’s photography and ethos in the fall of 1932.

Weston went on to become the first photographer to receive the coveted Guggenheim Fellowship and is today recognized as one of the most innovative photographers of the 20th century.

Halved Cabbage is not currently on view, but we hope you have enjoyed this feast for the eyes. Happy Thanksgiving!