“Could you give a more acceptable gift than a GOOD photograph?”
—Edward Weston Holiday Advertisement, 1910
Seasons Greetings, One and All. In this holiday themed post we thought it would be diverting to present a selection of Weston related advertisements and promotional materials that span his career from 1910 to 1954. All were designed to evoke the holiday spirit and entice a discerning public to favor Weston with their patronage.
Perhaps the most delightful example is a photographic postcard Weston produced for his Tropico studio in about 1911 (see image, above). Illustrated with a portrait of his one-and-a-half year old son Chandler frolicking in a staged winter scene, complete with overprinted snow (Conger 14/1911), this postcard boasts: “A portrait by Weston has character, individuality and artistic taste. My aim is to have every patron say, ‘That is the best likeness I ever had.’”
The intriguing “little note on the other side” (i.e. the back of the postcard) proffers the following advice:
“Dear Friend, / Do you know that in Large Studios—‘Picture Factories’ would be a more applicable name—the work turned out must of necessity lack individuality? Why? Because one party makes your sitting, another develops the plate, another re-touches it, another does the printing, and still another mounts and finishes it! Small wonder if the finished result falls far from being a likeness of the original! / Pictures finished at the Weston Studio are created from start to finish by one man; they are not a conglomerate mixture of what half a dozen parties guessed you ought to look like! Now you can see why Weston’s work is ‘Different’. / A Christmas suggestion is on the other side. / Weston Studio / Just North of Tropico Ave. on Brand Blvd. / Phone SUNSET 11-J for an appointment. Res. Phone: SUNSET 25-J.”
The earliest holiday advertisement I have uncovered precedes this postcard by a year, appearing in an October 1910 issue of the Glendale News. Here, Weston gains a substantial jump on the holidays by recommending his Bungalow Studio to the discerning woman desirous of marking the season with a stylish portrait in her new, as yet unsullied winter gown.
The next advertisement, on 11 November 1910, counsels: “Xmas Will soon be here. Your portrait would be an economical, acceptable gift.” To emphasize the suitability, Weston brands his work as “Photographs Worth While.”
Reinforcing the call to early and suitable gift selection this advertisement on the 25th of November asks, appropriately enough, “Could you give a more acceptable gift than a GOOD Photograph?”
A series of equally inviting notices appeared on a weekly basis throughout December 1910, culminating in this appreciative note on the 23rd:
Weston rounded out the 1910 holiday season on 30 December with this final bit of post-“Xmas festivities” wisdom:
In 1911, Weston responds to the annual bewilderment of holiday gift-giving with a series of pointedly helpful advertisements. In addition to the Chandler-in-the-snow photo postcard positing: “The Xmas Problem is always perplexing. What shall I give?,” the same troublesome “Xmas Problem” surfaces in this 20 October Glendale News advertisement:
The solution to the gift quandary? Why, “A good portrait” of course!
As Christmas drew nigh, Weston called upon Santa Claus himself to help invoke the holiday spirit, cleverly conjuring the wise and jolly Master gift-giver in an advertisement on December 8th:
The compelling aspect of Weston’s Santa Claus advertisement is its emphasis on the personalized, highly artistic quality of the Weston Studio experience. This may be early in his career, but Weston is already evincing a deep-rooted commitment to, and confidence in, the aesthetic nature of his work: “CAMERA PORTRAITS by WESTON have a distinctive air, they are DIFFERENT. They show thought and study in COMPOSITION, TONAL VALUES and TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE. Every sitting will receive more INDIVIDUAL attention than is possible in any of the large ‘picture factories’ where photos are ‘ground through the mill’ in a manner utterly impossible from an artistic standpoint.”
Subsequent holiday advertisements in area newspapers are not found again until 1914 when Weston’s solicitations in the Glendale Evening News reflect a more stylistically refined format befitting his growing “international reputation”: 
Weston’s holiday advertising wanes after 1914. Seemingly, his growing reputation, expanding artistic and intellectual horizons and increasingly bohemian friendships reduced the inclination, and to some degree the need, to solicit seasonal portrait commissions in the late 19-teens and 1920s. His work becomes less Pictorial and increasingly Modernist. Certainly, Weston’s three years in Mexico from 1923–1926 effected a profound change. Although portrait commissions continued (and would continue through the 1930s) to provide his most dependable source of income, Weston’s focus now centered on ground-breaking explorations of nudes, still lifes, architecture, and landscapes. This change is apparent in his portraits as well, which became more modern and certainly less commercial. One need only compare this pictorial 1912 portrait of Atala (Not in Conger) to Weston’s startling 1923 portrait of Nahui Olin (aka Carmen Mondragon) (Not in Conger) to discern the pronounced stylistic progression.
Naturally, Weston continued to advertise his studio and portrait work after moving to Carmel in January 1929, and in 1932 his portraiture rises to a new level when “Unretouched Portraits, Prints for Collectors” appears in his promotional brochures. Still, it is not until 1934 that Christmas advertisements re-emerge in the press, but with one significant difference: now galleries, publishers and even the Museum of Modern Art are overtly promoting the gift-giving value of his work, not Weston himself.
The first occurrence is a notice from Carmel’s influential Denny-Watrous Gallery in the Carmel Pine Cone on 26 October 1934. Amidst ballyhoo for screenings of “Adventure Films” and an appearance by “World Explorer, Big Game Hunter and Motion Picture Director” Major Hammond, the Gallery inserted this diminutive yet alluring tiding: “ANNOUNCING: NOV. 1: SPECIAL CHRISTMAS SALE OF EDWARD WESTON PRINTS AT $2.00 EACH.”
As with his many exhibitions at the Denny-Watrous Gallery, this sale was surely a partnership between Weston and the more publicly accessible Gallery. An effective means of more broadly promoting his work.
Beginning in 1940 Weston’s books supply ample gift-giving fodder. Publication of California and the West (1940) elicited a flurry of Christmas recommendations in newspapers throughout the country, including The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Herald, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. On 8 December 1940, the San Francisco Chronicle “Christmas Book Issue” glowingly described it as “A magnificent collection of Edward Weston’s photographs…”
Holiday promotions for subsequent books followed. In November 1947, publisher Duell, Sloan & Pearce placed a Christmas advertisement for The Cats of Wildcat Hill (published that month) in such newspapers as the San Francisco Chronicle and in December the Chronicle highlighted its “Gift Books” selection of Fifty Photographs with an illustration of MGM Storage Lot (Conger 1432/1939).
Not surprisingly, Christmas 1950 ushered in gift-giving recommendations for My Camera on Point Lobos, as seen in this 26 November 1950 listing in the San Francisco Chronicle Christmas Book Issue.
The final holiday promotions highlighted in this post are represented by intriguing offers from the Museum of Modern Art in 1951 and the Limelight Gallery in New York City in 1954.
The 1951 Museum of Modern Art opportunity served as both an exhibition, Christmas Photographs (on view from 29 November 1951–6 January 1952), and a related sale of the prints displayed. Only one Edward Weston photograph was included, but it was an exceptional one: his universally admired 1936 Nude on Sand, Oceano (Conger 928/1936).
The New York Times described the confluence of the MoMA exhibition and sale as follows:
An experimental show designed to test the public’s willingness to buy photographs as Christmas gifts went on display last week in the first floor gallery of the Museum of Modern Art. If the idea works and enough interest is created in collecting original photographic prints, the show will be made an annual event, according to the museum. Mounted prints of the photographs, which have been carefully selected by Edward Steichen, director of the museum’s Department of Photography, with the gift and print-collecting ideas in mind, will be offered for sale at prices ranging from $10 to $25. Duplicate prints of those on display will be on sale at the desk in the lobby during the run of the show, which ends Jan. 6. The proceeds will go to the photographers. / Wide Range / The prints on display were hand-picked by Mr. Steichen from the work of thirty-nine talented photographers, ranging in stature from Edward Weston to the young Edward Wallowitch, whose participation in the show was by the director’s invitation. Calculated to attract and please as many different tastes as possible, the display includes a wide range of techniques, in black and white and in color, a variety of photographic aims and moods, and a time span of more than twenty years. The exhibition is in the most literal sense a ‘showcase’ of outstanding photographic prints candidly offered for sale at a marked price. / To provide in a limited space the widest possible choice for prospective purchasers, each photographer is represented by only a few of his prints, many of which are familiar favorites. Edward Weston has the famous ‘Nude on the Sand’ (1936); Berenice Abbott her pictures of New York buildings at night and ‘Exchange Place’; Lisette Model a circus subject. There are also sand dunes by Brett Weston, son of the famous photographer; ‘Butterfly on the Sand’ by Tosh Matsumoto; and abstractions by Frederick Sommer, Arnold Newman, Aaron Siskind and Lotte Jacobi. A set of prints from Miss Abbott’s collection of original Atget negatives are also on exhibition and sale. / The color prints, by eight photographers, include Jeanette Klute’s experimental studies of fruits and flowers, Eliot Porter’s print of white aspens, and more by David Vestal, Ferenc Berko, and others. / Other offerings include Helen Levitt’s documentary photographs; Tana Hoban’s child portraits; Charles Sheeler’s Chartres pictures; Louis Faurer’s semi-abstracts; landscapes by Ansel Adams; Robert Frank’s picture of a young man with a tulip; Arthur Leipzig’s photograph of a sleeping child, and a New York night scene by Homer Page. / Famous Names / Further variety of choice is provided in the pictures by Jerome Liebling, Barbara Morgan, Herbert Matter, Fred Plaut, W. Eugene Smith, Ralph Steiner, Todd Webb, Harry Callahan, Joseph Breitenbach and Lydia Joel. And ‘for those who feel that Christmas this year is not all jingle bells,’ Mr. Steichen has included a photograph by Mr. Page of a wounded soldier from Korea. / The museum’s experiment is the first major attempt under such important auspices to stimulate interest in photographic print collecting on the same level as other artistic works. Although prints have been sold occasionally at other shows, this is the first time that a show of this size has been held for the specific purpose of selling rather than merely exhibiting photographs. / Some years ago the gallery of Julien Levy had on permanent display prints by Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, and others, which were offered for sale unmounted at something like $5 a print. Rabinovitch Photography Workshop at 40 West Fifty-sixth Street annually offers original prints by Mr. Rabinovitch at various prices with the suggestion that they be used as Christmas gifts. That the exhibited prints may be purchased is implied at almost all photographic shows, but the sponsors seldom make a point of this fact. If the Modern Museum’s experiment succeeds it will undoubtedly spark further efforts in this direction. / In any event, the mere fact that the experiment was undertaken is an effective gesture that will call public attention to the value of photographs as desirable acquisitions for personal enjoyment or for gift-giving.”
The equally appealing 1954 Limelight Gallery exhibition and sale also targeted holiday shoppers in an effort to stimulate photography collecting. Organized by Limelight Gallery’s owner and curator, Helen Gee, it was announced in The New York Times on 28 November 1954 and reviewed on 12 December 1954. Neither article mentions what Weston photograph or photographs were included. The December New York Times review reads:
Attractive opportunities to purchase photographic prints for exhibiting at home or for Christmas giving are offered by two local galleries. The Limelight Gallery, 91 Seventh Avenue South, has on display through this month a highly diversified group of almost fifty pictures by nineteen photographers, both American and European. The gallery is open weekdays from 6 P.M. to 2 A.M., Saturdays and Sundays, 2 P.M. to 2 A.M. The gallery of the Rabinovitch Photography Workshop, 40 West Fifty-sixth Street, hours 1 to 5 P.M. Mondays through Saturdays, has a one-man show of the work of Rabinovitch, including original prints and gravure reproductions. / The list of names represented at the Limelight show is highly impressive. About equally divided between American and European exhibitors, they include Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Edouard Boubat, Bill Brandt, Brassai, Manual [sic] Alvarez Bravo, Harry Callahan, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Doisneau, Robert Frank, Izis, Lisette Model, Gotthard Schuh, W. Eugene Smith, Paul Strand, Jacob Tugener, Sabine Weiss, Edward Weston and Minor White. / Wide Appeal / Taking into account variety of tastes and levels of appreciation, most of the pictures should appeal to a wide audience, though in view of the imposing roster of great names in contemporary photography, one would have liked a better selection in individual cases. Notable exceptions include Adams’ dramatic ‘Mt. Williamson, Sierra Nevada, Calif.,’ Abbott’s tall and narrow photograph of New York’s financial district, Cunningham’s Stieglitz and ferns, Frank’s prints, Model’s elegantly dressed woman in a flowered hat, Schuh’s Bali boy playing marbles, White’s broken stovepipe picture. / Some of the pictures in the show, Brandt’s being especially disappointing in this respect, are much too dark for home display, others too journalistic for a show of this character. / The prices, stipulated by the photographers, range from White’s and Cunningham’s $10 and $15 to Strand’s $125, with the average set at $25 and $35. From the viewpoint of the layman, the lower prices seem more realistic estimates of what the public may be willing to pay for photographs, through devotees of photography may be expected to pay the higher prices for the pleasure of owning an original Adams, Abbott or Weston. / …” [remainder of article discusses the Rabinovitch exhibition].
Who among us reads these advertisements without wishing we could time travel back to 1910, 1934 or 1954 to avail ourselves of such fine holiday promotions? Well, one never knows… ’tis the season for light and miracles after all… Cheers everyone!
1 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “Exactly One Month Before Xmas,” Glendale News, 25 November 1910, unpaginated p. 6.
2 [Promotional photo postcard] Edward Weston, “The Xmas Problem,”1911 or after. [1 Illus. recto as: Untitled [Chandler Weston waving in the snow] (Conger 14/1911).]
(Edward Weston Archive, Center for Creative Photography, Scrapbook E, p 1.)
© Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
3 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “New Winter Gowns: Have a likeness made by Weston…” Glendale News, 28 October 1910, unpaginated p. 6.
4 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “Xmas Will soon be here,” Glendale News, 11 November 1910, unpaginated p. 6.
5 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “Thank You!,” Glendale News, 23 December 1910, unpaginated p. 6.
6 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “Little Folks,” Glendale News, 30 December 1910, unpaginated p. 6.
7 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “The Xmas Problem…” Glendale News, 20 October 1911, unpaginated p. 8.
8 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “A Good Portrait,” Glendale News, 10 November 1911.
9 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “IF Santa Claus…” Glendale News, 8 December 1911.
10 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “All Christmas Portraits made up to…” Glendale Evening News 11 December 1914.
11 [Advertisement] Edward Weston, “Have You?” Glendale Evening News 18 December 1914.
12 [Edward Weston], “Atala Edward H. Weston Honorable Mention, July Competition,” American Photography 6:10 (October 1912): 577. [Illus. only]. (Collection of Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc.)
The young woman in this portrait is Atala Browning, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F.W. Browning of Glendale.
13 Nahui Olin [Carmen Mondragon], Nahui-Olin, Mexico: [Carmen Mondragon], printed by Imprenta Mundial, 1927. [Frontispiece]. (Collection of Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc.)
14 [Advertisement] Denny-Watrous Gallery, “Denny-Watrous Gallery…Announcing Nov. 1: Special Christmas Sale of Edward Weston Prints…” The Carmel Pine Cone 20:43 [mis-numbered 41], 26 October 1934, 4.
15 “Books to Be Published During the Fall Months: A Selected List of Titles Scheduled for Publication Between Now and Christmas,” The New York Times Book Review, 22 September 1940, 9-11, 20, 22, 29-30, 32, 35. [Ref. p. 30]
16 [Advertisement] Duell, Sloan and Pearce, “Duell, Sloan and Pearce presents,” The Boston Herald Christmas Book Edition, 7 December 1940, 12.
17 J.A.W., “Gift Books of All Kinds Await Christmas Buyers: Photography,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 15 December 1940, All Features Section, 3.
18 Joseph Henry Jackson, “Christmas Book Issue: Check-List of Suggestions For Christmas Books,” San Francisco Chronicle, 8 December 1940, “This World,” p. 15.
19 [Advertisement] Duell, Sloan and Pearce, “Check These Books for Gifts…,” San Francisco Chronicle, 30 November 1947, “Christmas Book Issue,” p. 22.
20 “Gift Books: Some Recent Fine Editions That You Might Want to Give as Christmas Gifts,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7 December 1947, “This World,” p. 23. [1 Illus. MGM Storage Lot [stairs] (Conger 1432/1939).]
21 “Christmas Check-List,” San Francisco Chronicle, 26 November 1950, “Christmas Book Issue,” p. 18.
22 [Press Release] [Museum of Modern Art], “Photographic Prints To Be Sold At Museum For Christmas,” New York: Museum of Modern Art, 21 November 1951. (Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York)
23 “Giving Photographs As Christmas Presents: Outstanding Prints Are Offered for Sale In Modern Art Museum Experiment,” The New York Times, 2 December 1951, X17.
24 “Camera Notes: American and European Prints in Sale Show,” The New York Times, 28 November 1954, X14.
25 “Prints For Sale: Two Galleries Display Gifts for Christmas,” The New York Times, 12 December 1954, X21.