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Edward Weston, American, (1886–1958)
A Fleck of Sunshine (Ruth St. Denis) , 1916
Silver gelatin print on paper
6 5/8 in. x 4 1/2 in. (16.83 cm. x 11.43 cm.)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Platinum Print
Credit Line: Gift of Merle Armitage
Accession Number: PH18

"California Pictorialism", San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (exhibition catalog), 1977, #226.

Edward Weston photographed the modern dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis several times, and even received an honorable mention at the Wilkes-Barre Camera Club’s Fifteenth Annual Exhibit in 1916 for a photograph of St. Denis in Japanese attire. Often Weston’s black-and-white photographs of the dancer have a soft focus, the principal characteristic of the early twentieth-century photographic movement known as Pictorialism. In these works, the soft focus reinforces a sense of elegance, as well as contributes to the photographs’ theatrical qualities.

In Ruth St. Denis (In Geisha Dress), the dancer wears clothing from the Genroku Period (1688-1704). Although St. Denis did wear Japanese Geisha costumes in several of her dances, this photograph appears to be staged, as she is perfectly positioned, delicately gazing to her left, framed by the leaves above her. St. Denis’s elongated neck, elaborate hair and makeup, and feminine clothing enhance this sense of theatricality, while imbuing the work with elegance and grace.

Ashley Newton ‘10
Wilson Intern 2009

This work was used to llustrate numerous publications in 1916 and exhibited at the London Salon of Photography in 1916.

"American Photography, 1920-1945", Lang Gallery, 11/6/88-12/18/88
"California Pictorialism", San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1/7/77-2/27/77

No marks.

Light black and white photograph (platinum print) mounted onto light yellow cardboard.

Object Description
Early twentieth century black and white photographic print of the actress Ruth St. Denis, in a kimono. Though this image seems to be staged rather than taken from an actual performance, St. Denis did have a number of dances in which she wore Japanese Geisha costumes. The most notable of these was "O-Mika", a ballet that tells the story of a simple courtesan who is transformed into the Japanese goddess of mercy. Unlike the majority of St. Denis' productions, "O-Mika" incorporated dialogue into its story line, forcing St. Denis to phonetically learn her lines in Japanese.

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