The J. Paul Getty Museum

Nude, Tina Modotti

Object Details


Nude, Tina Modotti


Edward Weston (American, 1886 - 1958)






Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



13.7 × 23.7 cm (5 3/8 × 9 5/16 in.)


© 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography

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Object Description

In July 1923 Edward Weston changed his life dramatically. On the thirtieth of that month he left his wife, three youngest sons, and the Los Angeles artistic milieu in which he had gained prominence to sail for Mexico with his oldest son, Chandler (1910-1995), and his model and lover at the time, Tina Modotti (1896-1942). Weston later summarized his thought process regarding the move: “A long period of personal conflict was required before I finally decided to break away and leave my family for Mexico. To the outer world I was a deserter, but I was not. If I had remained under conditions which could not have been, and never will be changed, I would have mentally poisoned all around me; destroyed them, my work, myself.” The resulting two and a half years he spent away constituted a period of immense stylistic exploration and maturation for the developing artist.

Weston had never been to Mexico and spoke little or no Spanish. Modotti, an Italian-born actress who aspired to become a photographer and who had visited Mexico previously, acted as his interpreter, studio assistant, and model in exchange for learning the craft from him. She also facilitated his exhibitions, print sales, and introductions to prominent artists in Mexico City.

Weston made this picture of Modotti on the flat, tiled roof of a hacienda they shared in Mexico City. The image is radically different from the nude he had made of Margrethe Mather the year before (see 85.XM.257.2). Here Weston moved in close to his subject, producing a sensual study of the nude form by photographing from above and emphasizing the texture and sheen of flesh against rough tiles. Modotti's figure sweeps diagonally across the composition, her voluminous torso lightly framed.

Modotti did go on to become a photographer, producing images with a formal sensibility informed by Weston's creations but infused with socialist political content akin to that of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera (1886-1957), whose public murals championed the working class and who was a friend and supporter of both Weston and Modotti in Mexico.

Brett Abbott. Edward Weston, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005), 32. ©2005, J. Paul Getty Trust.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Optical Parables (November 13, 2001 to February 9, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 13, 2001 to February 17, 2002
  • Museo Nacional de Arte (Mexico City), March 14 to June 2, 2002
  • Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), November 10, 2002 to February 9, 2003
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004
Tina Modotti and Edward Weston in Mexico (September 2, 2006 to January 2, 2007)
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco), September 2, 2006 to January 2, 2007
Edward Weston: Enduring Vision (July 31 to November 25, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 31 to November 25, 2007