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11/24/2009

Charis Wilson, Edward Weston's wife and muse

November 24, 2009 |  8:02 am

Charis Wilson, the muse, model and last wife of art photographer Edward Weston and the author of several books, including “California and the West,” which she co-wrote with her husband, died Friday in Santa Cruz, according to the New York Times. She was 95.

Charis Wilson (pronounced CARE-ess) took up with Weston when she was 20 and he was 48. She posed for a number of his photographs, many of them nudes, but her involvement with his career went far beyond modeling. Wilson edited articles on photography by Weston and traveled extensively with him for his work

One of the best known photographs he made of her shows her fully dressed in “Charis, Lake Ediza” in 1937. She sits on the ground leaning against rocks wearing pants, a pullover and tall boots. Her head is wrapped in fabric to ward off mosquitoes when traveling and camping outdoors. There is “a look of exhaustion on my face — since identified by critics as ‘sensuality,'” Wilson wrote in her 1998 memoir, “Through Another Lens, My Years With Edward Weston,” co-written with Wendy Madar.

Weston's photos are archived at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles has exhibited some of Weston's nude images of Wilson, including this one.

And a number of the Wilson images are included in “Eloquent Nude, the Love and Legacy of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson,” a 2007 documentary with archival footage and interviews with Wilson, directed by Ian McCluskey.

Update: Mary Rourke's news obituary is here.

-- Claire Noland

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