Ansel Adams is a distinct paradigm of the American West from his wild adventures to his modern methods and embrace of technology, along with his romanticizing of the open spaces and their vernacular — and all the way down to his bolo and white stetson.
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 40”x 60”, 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 77” 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-238-9244.
Original gelatin silver print of “Aspens, Northern New Mexico” available in a 16 x 20 inch format, signed in pencil, printed in the mid-1970s and in “Excellent” condition. Email email@example.com or call (888) 238-9244 for more details and pricing.
It may come as a surprise for some to learn that at one point in Ansel Adams’ life, he contemplated and was fraught with the decision whether to become a classical pianist or a photographer.
From a very early age, Ansel taught himself to play the piano and read music. He began taking formal lessons when he was twelve, and practicing the piano became an integral aspect to his home schooling. Two years later, he would visit Yosemite National Park for the first time with his family, and become utterly enthralled by its majestic beauty. By age eighteen, he had decided upon a career as a concert pianist, all the meanwhile having taken up photography as a burgeoning passion. The decision as to whether or not to pursue classical piano or fine art photography was quite difficult for him, something that he discusses in his autobiography. One could argue that the dedicated training and discipline required to play the piano during some of the most formative years of his childhood laid the foundational framework for his unwavering work ethic and dedication to photography.
In many ways, there is a musical and poetic element to Ansel’s photography. His ability to capture not only a “picture” but an “expression” of his own experiences is utterly magical. When he exposed the horizontal and vertical negatives of “Aspens, Northern New Mexico” he recalled the details of his experience: “I immediately knew there were wonderful images to be made in the area… We were in the shadow of the mountains, the light was cool and quiet and no wind was stirring. The aspen trunks were slightly greenish and the leaves were a vibrant yellow. The forest floor was covered with a tangle of russet shrubs. It was very quiet and visually soft, and would have been ideal for a color photograph…” Yet what Ansel envisioned in black-and-white was “a considerable departure from reality”. This underscores the significance of his ability to first visualize an image, and then through his technical mastery, record his own experience. Ansel Adams’ original photograph of “Aspens, Northern New Mexico” is a symphony of tonal values.
When you compare prints of “Aspens, Northern New Mexico” there can be quite a difference between one print to another. Some of the earlier prints that he made are lighter, whereas, some of the later prints are significantly darker. Much of the image itself is black; yet it is that brilliant glistening aspen tree in the center that stands out as a result of the high contrast that many associate with Ansel’s photography. He is often quoted for saying, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.” Many of these subtle details and delicate nuances distinguish one print’s “interpretation” from another. His formulation of the Zone System, along with highly disciplined and refined darkroom skills, informed his printmaking and resulted in beautiful individually hand-printed photographs, such as this example of “Aspens, Northern New Mexico”. Its richly detailed, pin-sharp clarity and overall balance in tonal variation distinguishes it as a superb example of fine art photography. Its classical overtones are indicative of his printing style during the mid-1970s, and its condition is excellent.
Ansel Adams was at times quiet, but incredibly expressive throughout his career: first as an aspiring concert pianist, then as a world renown photographer. In many ways he changed the course of history, not only through his printed photographs, but in a myriad of other ways – as an ardent environmentalist, founder of Group f/64, pioneer of the Zone System, and key player in establishing the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. With his hands he created extraordinary photographs. With his words he inspired others through his poetic commentary, persuasive language and informative writings. In doing so, he brought photography into the same realm of painting, music and other fine art forms, similarly capable of expressing and evoking the human emotion and our response to the beauty in nature.
Virtually everyone with whom he encountered has a memorable and favorable story about Ansel Adams. Music would continue to inform his work, and color his livelihood with a piano stationed in his living room, amidst photographic prints, murals, and other artifacts that the Adams collected over the years. If you could go back in time and mingle at one of the Adams’ cocktail parties or social gatherings, you might have heard the lively touch of his fingertips at the piano.
The Ansel Adams Gallery will be introducing a sensational mural of “Aspens, Northern New Mexico” in a large horizontal 32×40 inch format. Recently at Christie’s 2017 spring auction, a mural of the same image, with similar but slightly smaller dimensions, sold for $440,000. To learn more about our gallery’s selection of murals, please contact the Director of Photography Sales, Brittany Moorefield, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 238-9244.
************************** For Immediate Release **************************
In the late 1970s, as the prices for Ansel Adams’ original photographs exploded in value, Ansel and his advisors developed a plan to be able to have his work more easily exhibited and seen by future generations. He created the Museum Set edition, sets of prints of his photographs, mostly the classic, iconic images that people have come to know and love, but also works that, while not as popular, he felt were important to his legacy. These sets would be sold, at a significant discount to then current prices, to carefully selected individuals with a history of making donations to art and educational institutions, under the agreement between Ansel and the purchaser that the set would be donated, in its entirety, to an art or educational institution.
The original agreements always named the originally intended designee, and allowed for Ansel to unilaterally cancel the contract if he felt that the purchaser was not going to follow through with the agreement.
The standard form of the agreements was later (posthumously) amended to reflect that the sets were to always remain intact, and if the purchaser were to sell or deaccession them, they had to go to a public or nonprofit art or education institution. The same stipulation was required of any successor owner, that they remain intact and sold or transferred to a public or nonprofit art or education institution, with the same ongoing stipulation. Prints purchased under those later contracts, therefore, by legal agreement, did not, do not, and will not have an unrestricted title that can easily be transferred. The Museum Sets and individual prints from Museum Sets have irregularly come to the market, almost always from the original purchaser or their descendants. As this is contrary to the written agreement between Ansel and the purchaser, we (Ansel’s family and estate) have consistently and successfully fought to enforce the agreement that they be donated to an institution. We have been assisted by many other people and institutions – dealers and auction houses throughout the United States – who recognize that the agreements with Ansel are legally binding and as such have refused to offer them for sale as contrary to law, precedent, and Ansel’s intent. We appreciate those efforts and everyone’s continued vigilance.
On December 14, 2017, a Museum Set will be available through Doyle Auctions in New York City. This set was initially acquired in 1981 from Ansel under the original standard agreement. It was donated by the family of the original purchaser to the College of New Rochelle, where it has been exhibited for students, faculty, and the neighboring public. While we would of course prefer that it stay intact and on public display, the terms of the agreement with Ansel have been met and it is for the College of New Rochelle to determine its disposition.
We have worked with the College to clearly identify the provenance of these prints. Each print is marked on the reverse with a unique number from Ansel’s studio and the “Museum Set” wet stamp.
Also on each print in this set are two wet stamps:
The College of New Rochelle
Gift of Caryl Horwitz
by the Board of Trustees of
The College of New Rochelle
It is clear that the prints in this specific set are no longer subject to the legal restrictions that Ansel made. We believe this is an exception, and that, by contract, other Museum Sets must remain intact and intended for public display. We will continue to enforce Ansel’s agreements to the fullest extent possible, and ask the broader art photography market to do the same. In general, Museum Set prints that are not clearly marked and identifiable as having been deaccessioned from a public or nonprofit institution are on the market contrary to Ansel’s agreements, have restricted title. We hope that the market will continue to shun these transactions and value them commensurately with any restricted sale item.
President, The Ansel Adams Gallery
Grandson, Ansel Adams
It is sometimes easy to forget that The Ansel Adams Gallery began as a painting studio operated by Ansel’s father-in-law Harry Best from 1902 until 1936. Mr. Best’s style of painting grew out of the Hudson River School variety as he ventured into both studio and plain air sessions. Today the Gallery continues this tradition by featuring the work of James McGrew in a new solo exhibit: Interpreting Yosemite through the Seasons, New Original Oil Paintings.
From iconic grand views to remote and intimate perspectives, James McGrew’s most recent original oil paintings convey the diverse moods and experiences of Yosemite through the changing seasons. This exhibit will open on October 1st and run through November 11th, 2017 and will feature both plein air and studio paintings showcasing a range from clearing moonlit snow storms to high water of spring in 2017 to the calm of late summer and Autumn color. The Ansel Adams Gallery will be hosting a public artist’s reception on Wednesday, October 4th form 3-5pm.
It is a celebrated aspect of art in the National Parks that, when successful, it evokes an emotional response and depicts a consequential interpretation of these majestic spaces. There is a caveat of this art which intends to help us see more literally the form that our parks like Yosemite have taken, while also guiding our imaginations to envision these places at their purest and most elemental structures. And this sentiment is on full display when looking at the Ukiyo-ë style woodblock prints of Tom Killion. Each print is full of life – with playful lines, graphic designs and rich color or tone – but there is also sincerity to it in the way it promotes a nearly unadulterated landscape worthy of our social values and appreciation. Starting August 20th and running through September 30th, The Ansel Adams Gallery will be hosting an exhibition of Mr. Killion’s work, from his newest woodblocks of Yosemite, to some rare and old favorites. We will also be holding an artist’s reception for Tom on Saturday, September 9th from 3-5pm inside the gallery in Yosemite Village where he will be talking about his work and taking questions from attendees. We hope to see you there!
In 1977, William Neill found his own life’s path redirected when he came to photograph Yosemite for the first time. Not long after, he began working at The Ansel Adams Gallery as a staff photographer, teaching visitors all he could about the art form and the place that he loved. While other itinerant interests would take him on journeys far and wide, from the American Southwest to Antartica, he would make Yosemite his permanent home. Forty years later, to commemorate his commitment to photography and great body of work, The Ansel Adams Gallery will be hosting the exhibit “William Neill — A Retrospective” between July 9th to August 19th, 2017
THE ANSEL ADAMS GALLERY
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA 95389