Setting out on a daring hike early in the morning of April 17th, 1927, Ansel Adams – along with then fiancée Virginia Best and good friends Charlie Michael and Arnold Williams – would conclude a day’s worth of photographing by making an image that would define his career: Monolith, The Face of Half Dome. The resulting image was Ansel’s “first true visualization” (a summation of the emotional process that went into making a photograph), and a revelation from combining technical cunning with artistic principle. In fact years later, while reminiscing about this day with assistant John Sexton in the context of a lifelong pursuit, Ansel mock confessed, “Maybe I should just have stopped then.” The image itself has stood the test of time and is to this day one of the most recognizable made within the history of the medium. Add to this the fact that Half Dome is one of the most photographed landscape icons on the planet, and the impact that Monolith has had, and continues to have within a crowded arena, begins to come into focus. To this day, exactly 90 years later, Monolith remains an inspiration to professional and amateur photographers alike, is a testament to creativity, ingenuity and conviction of pursuit, and speaks to the success of the National Park ideal as well as the importance of protected, public lands. Here is to 90 years of distinction!
The wilderness instills in us the feeling of being uninhibited, creative and free; we are completely reliant on collective abilities in these places to undertake, protect and enjoy such an experience.
In 1943, one of America’s best-known photographers documented one of the best-known internment camps.
Seventy-five years ago, nearly 120,000 Americans were incarcerated because of their Japanese roots after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. More than 10,000 were forced to live in the hastily built barracks of Manzanar—two thirds of whom were American citizens by birth. Located in the middle of the high desert in California’s Eastern Sierra region, Manzanar would become one of the best-known internment camps—and in 1943, one of America’s best-known photographers, Ansel Adams, documented daily life there.
As Richard Reeves writes in his history of Japanese-American internment, Adams was friends with the camp’s director, who invited him to the camp in 1943. A “passionate man who hated the idea of the camps,” he hoped to generate sympathy for the internees by depicting the stark realities of their lives. As a result, many of his photos paint a heroic view of internees—people “born free and equal,” as the title of his book collecting the photos insists.
The Ansel Adams Gallery is thrilled to offer an original mural that is extraordinarily rare, and perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have acquired a spectacular, extremely large mural photograph of Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine, printed by Ansel Adams in the early 1960s. This print was a gift from the artist to the contractor, George Whitcomb, who built the Adams’ house and darkroom in Carmel. Through this process, Whitcomb became a very good friend to Ansel and Virginia, working closely with them and architect Aldridge Spencer to build a unique home overlooking the California coast and Pacific Ocean.
While most of Adams’ photographs are immediately recognizable, there are a handful of iconic images that epitomize both the grand Western landscape that Ansel loved so dearly and the body of work which made him the most well-known and respected photographer of the 20th century. Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine is one of those few images. Created in 1944 while Ansel was working on his Born Free and Equal project, a documentary book and exhibit of the Japanese-Americans interred at Manzanar War Relocation Center, this image is a powerful masterpiece that resonates deep within our primordial souls. This universal resonance makes it one of his most beloved and sought after images.
Ansel’s darkroom in his San Francisco home, where he worked until 1962, was small, cramped, and squeezed into all the available space in the basement. When Ansel planned his move and designed his home in Carmel, the darkroom was purpose built, able to accommodate multiple large trays, several people, and several enlargers (including one that ran on a narrow gauge railroad and exposed the negative horizontally against a wall that could hold rolls of photographic paper). This darkroom made a nearly impossible task of printing murals significantly easier.
Printing large format photographs was not a simple task. Anything larger than 20×24 required two people to process, rolling the paper through the trays of chemicals carefully and constantly to get an even development, taking care not to crimp or bend the fragile medium. In the San Francisco studio, two people could barely fit into the darkroom, let alone handle large pieces of paper and move them from tray to tray. The darkroom in Carmel provided the necessary space and equipment to process and maneuver substantially larger photographs.
While all large format photographs (larger than 16×20) are uncommon, the overwhelming majority of that subset are 30”x40” or smaller. This photograph is 39½”x 59½”, more than double the size of the typical mural. With the exception of multi-panel or multi-strip pieces, this is the largest size photograph that Ansel could produce.
It is not surprising, then, that Ansel gave the contractor who built his home in Carmel one of the largest photographs he could produce, we presume shortly after Ansel moved in, as a means of appreciation. What makes this print particularly special is the combination of provenance, size, image sharpness, luminance and tonal values within the print, and condition of the print surface. Some of the murals we see are impressive for their sheer size, but don’t hold the image well, breaking up or losing the sharpness that was a hallmark of Adams’ work. The clarity, luminance, and tonal range of this print gives up nothing for its size, making it a truly remarkable photograph from the day Ansel made it.
The intervening 50+ years have been surprisingly kind to this sensational masterpiece. Protected with an initial coat of varnish (typical for Ansel’s murals), the print has recently received an extensive cleaning and retouching. The few minimal blemishes that remain would be invisible on a standard 16×20 print, and are visible now only under close inspection with magnification and bright specular light. We rate the condition “Excellent” – defined as “Only minor flaws or damage, visible under close inspection (less than 10 inch viewing distance) in specular or raking light.” Considering everything, the image, tonality and luminance, size, condition, provenance, and the scarcity of all these factors in a single photograph, this mural of Winter Sunrise, from Lone Pine is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
There have been two recorded sales at auction of this image at or near this size. In 2010 a photograph the same size sold for $482,500, four years later a print slightly smaller sold for $545,000. We believe this print is easily comparable to these auction records, and is priced accordingly. The photograph is archivally overmatted and framed to 57”x 76½” using museum quality Plexiglass and a welded metal frame reminiscent of the type Ansel preferred. It will be accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from The Ansel Adams Gallery, signed by the Gallery’s President, Matthew Adams.
We invite you to consider this extraordinary opportunity to acquire a remarkable work of art that is historically significant, and representative of Adams’ legacy as a renown photographer and master printer.
For more information or to discuss this acquisition, please email email@example.com or call 888-238-9244.
Ansel Adams made this image around 1959 with an 8″ x 10″ view camera. The image was once used in a commercial job, as he recalls in “Ansel Adams: An Autobiography:”
“In 1969, for one of my last commercial jobs, I selected a photograph, “Yosemite Valley , Winter”…for reproduction on a Hills Brothers coffee can. The idea was to produce something of lasting attractiveness after the original contents of the can had been consumed…Potentially corny: actually reasonable. There were thousands of three-pound cans filled with coffee sold nationwide in grocery stores for $2.35 each.”
When she saw the coffee cans, reliably acerbic Imogen Cunningham criticized him for selling out. Cunningham had shown her work alongside Adams and Edward Weston in the 1932 Group f/64 Exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco . To make her point, she had a friend deliver one of the cans filled with manure complete with a sprouting marijuana plant dubbing it a “pot in a pot.”
Ansel Adams took the ribbing well, saying:
“I enjoyed Imogen’s joke, but when my good friend and fellow photographer Henry Gilpin, then deputy sheriff of Monterey County, dropped by and spotted the plant he quietly suggested that I destroy it. I did.”
In addition to being ‘published’ on the coffee can, it is on the cover of Yosemite and the High Sierra.
Hospitality: 5:00 p.m.
Presentation: 6:00 p.m.
312 Sutter Street, Suite 500, San Francisco, CA
Michael Adams will give an illustrated talk about Ansel Adam’s life and legacy, including the photographer’s youth in San Francisco, his exposure to music, and his relationship to the landscape of Yosemite, the Sierra Nevada, and the Southwest. The talk will be accompanied by a slideshow of some of Ansel Adam’s most beloved photographs.
Michael Adams was born in the Yosemite Valley and was educated at Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, and Stanford University. He received a B.A. in Geography from Fresno State College, and his M.D. from Washington University School of Medicine. In addition to his private medical practice, Michael has also served as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force and the California Air National Guard in Japan and New Mexico, and as a flight surgeon/pilot physician in Germany and Fresno, California. He retired from the USAF and Air National Guard in 1993, as a Major General and from duty as Deputy Surgeon General of the USAF for the Air National Guard.
Michael is Chairman of the Board of the Ansel Adams Gallery, now in its 114th year of operation in Yosemite Valley. He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco Medical School, Department of Medicine, and teaches in the UCSF Fresno Residency Training Program. Michael has been an advisor to the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where the Ansel Adams photographic archive is located. He is a Council member of the Yosemite Conservancy.
Ansel Adams made this image with an 8″ x 10″ view camera sometime before 1959. The specific date is unknown, but astronomers at Texas State University in San Marcos dated a similar image, “Autumn Moon,” to 7:03 PM September 15, 1948 .
The image captures the moon rising over the Clark Range southeast of Glacier Point. When the moon is full, its light reflects off Yosemite’s bare granite walls bathing the south central high country in an ethereal glow that has made nighttime hiking popular in this area of the park.
The moon was a key element in some of Ansel Adams’ photographs, notably “Moonrise” made in 1941 at Hernandez , New Mexico . His technical expertise enabled him to make exposures that reveal the detail of the moon’s craters and seas.
Ansel Adams made this image on a chilly late autumn morning in 1939 with an 8″ x 10″ view camera and 10-inch Kodak Wide-Field Ektar lens. The Cathedral Rocks loom in the background. He took the photo from west side of the El Capitan bridge over the Merced River in Western Yosemite Valley .
Over time, Adams printed the negative of ”Merced River, Cliffs, Autumn” in different ways, initially printing it very brightly and later using more dramatic tones as in the Yosemite Special Edition version. In Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs , Adams writes that he had “not yet made a print that fully satisfies” and goes on to consider how he would have visualized the image in color:
“I can imagine a very quiet and luminous effect of subdued hues; the elements here that made a black-and-white image difficult would be most favorable to color photography. The low contrast of the subject would be compatible with color processes. … Few subjects lend themselves to both black-and-white and color image concepts.”
Though Ansel Adams claimed to dislike color photography, he did produce an accomplished body of work in color and even tested color films for Eastman Kodak. A selection of his color photographs appear in the posthumously published Ansel Adams: In Color. (Ansel had a love-hate relationship with color photography, primarily because he could not control it)
Merced River, Cliffs, Autumn appeared with the title “Merced River, Cliffs of Cathedral Rocks, Autumn” in “Portfolio III, Yosemite Valley” published by the Sierra Club in 1960. It was included in the 2001-2003 traveling museum exhibition Ansel Adams at 100 and companion book. The photograph also appears in Ansel Adams Monograph (out of print), entitled Autumn, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite, Yosemite and the High Sierra, Yosemite and the Range of Light (out of print), Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, Our National Parks, and Classic Images, the book based on the Museum Set Collection, a retrospective portfolio of what Adams considered his strongest work.
THE ANSEL ADAMS GALLERY
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA 95389