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.