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Art News: With Coming Sale, the World Looks to Ansel Adams For Relief

By David Schonauer   Wednesday November 18, 2020


Can Ansel Adams save the world in 2020?

“In a world where the president of the United States has been actively working to undermine established environmental regulations, and in a world where each passing year can be marked with ice caps gushing more water into the oceans,” Adams’s meticulous documentation of American landscapes and passionate stance for environmental conservation may be just what we need, noted the Observer news site recently.

Adams is making headlines this month, ahead of a December 14 Sotheby's sale that will see a a massive collection of his work auctioned off. The sale will spotlight “the holy grail of Ansel Adams collections,” exclaimed the Observer. Amassed by longtime collector and oil company CEO David H. Arrington, the collection represents one of the most significant and impressive private collections of Adams's work in the world. More than 100 of Adams’s most iconic photos will be sold. Among the lots is a print of “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” that is estimated  to bring in between $700,000 and $1,000,000.

“This particular specimen is allegedly the earliest print of the image ever to come to market,” notes PetaPixel. It is among only a handful of prints known to exist from before Adams refixed the negative in 1948, and measures 9.25 x 12.125 inches.


The sale will also include several of Adams’ mural-sized prints. Among them is an 84.75 x 119.75-inch image of Yosemite Valley created by Adams in the mid-1950s for the American Trust Company (above). Printed in sections, each section was so large they had to printed in special trays and then mounted with wheat paste to Homasote boards, notes PP. The massive print is estimated to sell for between $70,000 and $100,000.

The sale will also include mural-sized gelatin silver print of Adams’s image “Grand Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming, 1942” (below), which is estimated to sell for between $400,000 and $600,000.


“The Arrington Collection was assembled with a true passion for the medium and a deep understanding of Adams’ extraordinary seven-decade career,” notes Emily Bierman, Sotheby’s VP and Head of the Photographs Department. “[Mr. Arrington’s] focus on collecting only the most superb prints is apparent when viewing the sumptuous early print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, an unequivocal masterpiece in the history of art that rivals any blue chip painting.”

The work highlights Adams’s ability to create photographs of nature “that were often stark, but never devoid of heart or passion,” notes Observer. Adams, the publication adds, “also managed to imbue the Earth’s landscape with a mythic and otherworldly quality.”

Adams’s inimitable work helped establish photography as a fine art a half century ago, notes My Modern Met, which recently put together a list of 10 things people might not known about the photographer.

For instance, did you known that as a child he was injured by the 1906 earthquake that leveled San Francisco? “Ansel was just four years old when San Francisco was hit by the great earthquake of 1906. During an aftershock, he lost his balance and fell face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. The damage was so severe that it remained crooked throughout his life,” notes MMM.

Here’s to Ansel, who we need now, more than ever.
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At top: Adams’s Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”

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