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Nahui Olín

Edward Weston (American, Highland Park, Illinois 1886–1958 Carmel, California)

Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.3 x 17.8 cm (9 3/16 x 7 in.) Mount: 48.6 x 38 cm (19 1/8 x 14 15/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
©1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents
  • Description

    This portrait of Nahui Olín belongs to a series of photographs that Weston referred to as "heroic heads." Sitters were chosen from among the circle of intellectual friends with whom he and his companion, Tina Modotti, associated during his years in Mexico. Here, the sitter is Carmen Mondragón (1896-1978), a Mexican poet and painter who grew up in Paris and who, upon her return to Mexico, took an Indian name meaning "four movements of the sun." Nahui Olín posed for Weston in November 1923, and the portrait was exhibited in his second show at the Aztec Land Gallery in Mexico City the following year.
    In his "Daybooks," Weston recorded that Nahui Olín was annoyed by the revealing nature of the portrait; he himself considered it, together with others from the same sitting, to be among the best pictures he had made in Mexico. It proved to be one of the most popular images in the exhibition and probably inspired these lines in a prose poem review by Francisco Monterde García Icazbalceta: ". . . cruelly, [Weston] prefers to guillotine heads in the noon sun: unreal necks and martyred eyes in harsh, insolent light." Flattering or not (and flattery would not have been Weston's concern), the image is a powerful expression of the photographer's piercing eye, a confrontational face-off between two equally strong personalities.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and inscribed in pencil on mount, recto BR: "Edward Weston // Mexico 1924"; BL: "-Nahui Olin-"; inscribed in pencil on mount, verso BR: "Ph 79.592"; BL: "5/1/80 4/22/81 3/22/82"

  • Provenance

    Jake Zeitlin, Los Angeles; David Zeitlin, Los Angeles; [Mark Kelman]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, October 16, 1979

  • See also