IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Receives Gift of Photographs by Brett Weston

The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University has received a major gift of fifty photographs by American photographer Brett Weston (1911–1993), donated by art collector and philanthropist Christian Keesee. The works range from 1930 to 1981 and represent a broad survey of Weston's career with special emphasis on environmental and architectural abstractions, as well as landscapes of California and New Mexico.

Born in Los Angeles, Brett Weston spent a significant part of his adolescence in Mexico with his father, renowned American modernist photographer Edward Weston (1886–1958). Under Edward's guidance, Brett learned photography from the early age of thirteen and quickly became embedded in the country's arts community. He formed meaningful relationships with such modern Mexican artists as Frida Kahlo, Tina Modotti, José Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera, drawing inspiration from their attention to form, scale, and composition. Over the course of his career, Weston documented his travels across Europe, Japan, and the United States, focusing primarily on the natural world and abstracted details from encounters with his surroundings. Weston's intense commitment to his practice and materials is well-documented, adhering to a daily seven-hour printing regimen.

“It was an absolute pleasure working with the Brett Weston Archive to identify a group of photographs that would complement our considerable holdings of American modernist photography. The intentional focus on abstractions further aligns with IU's legacy of experimentalism that was initiated by Henry Holmes Smith in 1947,” said Lauren Richman, Assistant Curator of Photography. “This generous gift will enrich and support our commitment as a teaching museum, enabling students, faculty, and scholars alike to conduct research through direct engagement with original works of art.” The gift joins a 1951 special edition portfolio of five photographs by Brett Weston that were acquired as part of the Henry Holmes Smith Archive, adding additional nuance to its significance.

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1906–1986), IU's first Professor of Photography, was a friend and peer of both Brett and Edward, whom he first met in 1952. Four years later, Smith organized a transformative summer workshop at IU dedicated to the interpretation of photographs. Although Brett was unable to attend, he sent examples of his work for Smith to discuss. Attendees included leaders in the field such as Minor White, Aaron Siskind, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Yoichi Okamoto, and Jack Welpott, and the workshop resulted in several published articles in Aperture. Thanks to a generous three-year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, Richman has been able to conduct new scholarly research on Smith and his circle of peers, in addition to cataloguing and digitizing the contents of the Smith Archive.

Furthermore, this gift joins the Eskenazi Museum's robust holdings of Edward Weston's work, which include 140 prints spanning the artist's career, more than 100 of which were acquired directly from Brett Weston in 1964. The recently established Martha and David Moore Study for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs will offer an innovative space to activate this gift through regular course viewings, scholarly appointments, and community engagement.

Of the gift, Wilma E. Kelley Director David A. Brenneman said, “The museum is grateful to receive this significant gift, which will further complement our collection of works by Edward Weston and other American modernist masters. An understudied but important part of our collection, our photography holdings represent a wealth of discovery for our learning community. We look forward to sharing these works for years to come.”

About the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art

Since its establishment in 1941, the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art has grown from a small university teaching collection into one of the most significant university art collections in the United States. A preeminent teaching museum on the Indiana University campus, its internationally acclaimed collection, ranging from ancient gold jewelry and African and Oceanic works to paintings by modern masters such as Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock, includes more than 45,000 objects representing nearly every art-producing culture throughout history.

In 2019, the Eskenazi Museum of Art completed a $30 million renovation of its acclaimed I. M. Pei–designed building. The newly renovated museum is an enhanced teaching resource for Indiana University and southern Indiana. The museum is dedicated to engaging students, faculty, artists, scholars, alumni, and the wider public through the cultivation of new ideas and scholarship.

CONTACT: Mariah Keller, Director of Creative Services