Charis Wilson, photographer's muse, dies at 95

AP News
Posted: Nov 24, 2009 9:07 PM

Charis Wilson, who inspired photographer Edward Weston during an 11 year relationship and posed for many of his pictures, has died. She was 95.

Wilson died Friday in Santa Cruz at the home of a close friend, her daughter Rachel Fern Harris said.

Wilson was Weston's model, muse and companion from 1934-1945. She appeared in more than half of Weston's nudes, including some of his most well-known pieces, "Floating Nude" and "Nude in the Doorway."

She also was in many clothed protraits as well, including "Charis, Lake Ediza."

In "The Model Wife," author Arthur Ollman's book on artists and their spouses, Wilson is described as, "the perfect model, lively, beautiful, uninhibited, playfully experimental, and always at hand. He was inspired and fully receptive."

Weston said in his book that "a new and important chapter in my life opened up" the day they met.

Wilson was born in San Francisco to a novelist father and actress mother, and raised in Carmel, where she met Weston at a concert. She had just moved back to the coastal enclave after doing secretarial work in San Francisco and working as an actress.

Wilson had received a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., but turned it down after her father said the family did not have enough money to send her despite the financial aid.

She wrote about Weston's photography and helped him with writing assignments, including an application for a Guggenheim fellowship. In 1937, he was the first art photographer to be awarded the grant.

The couple hit the road with the fellowship money and co-authored "California and the West," which included about 100 photographs.

They separated in 1945. A day after their divorce was finalized in 1946, Wilson married labor activist Noel Harris. She had two children during the marriage, which ended in 1967.

Wilson and Harris remained close until her death.

Wilson's memoir co-written with Wendy Madar, "Through the Lens, My Years with Edward Weston," was published in 1999. A documentary, "Eloquent Nude, the Love and Legacy of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson," was released in 2007.

(This version corrects title of Wilson's book.)