In 1953, Edward Weston’s son Brett (1911-2003) and Brett’s wife, Dody Warren Weston (1923-2012), first suggested in a letter to writer and friend Nancy Newhall (1908-1974) and her husband, photo historian Beaumont Newhall (1908-1993), the idea of creating a book of Weston’s nude figure studies. Suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease, Weston had stopped photographing in 1948. Generating income from his large existing body of work was of particular interest to Weston and those concerned with his well-being, but the motivation for preparing a book on Weston’s nudes, a favorite subject throughout his career, went far beyond the financial. The subject of the nude had been significantly underrepresented in publications on the artist up to that point; a book dedicated to this subject was surely intended to address this imbalance.
Nancy Newhall, who had recently published an article in Modern Photography about Weston’s nudes, took the lead on the project, enclosing a small number of Weston’s photographs in a letter written to Charles Duell of Duell, Sloan & Pearce,the publishing company that had produced three of Weston’s previous books. Thinking it would be better to show a larger representation of his work to potential publishers, Weston forwarded to Newhall fifty-two prints of nudes along with some still lifes and landscapes that would resonate with the nudes. Newhall chose thirty-nine of the fifty-two images that she laid out in sequence in a spiral bound maquette (fig. 1) that included a revised, augmented version of her article (fig. 2).