In a letter dated October 21, 1969, the director of a California-based organization wrote to Ansel Adams:
Our Company is planning to move into a new building on approximately December 18, 1969. We have decided that we would like to decorate our offices with scenes from California. We would be very anxious to obtain some of your photographs if you would be so kind as to call me collect, I could then make arrangements with you to obtain the photographs we would like in our offices.
Adams' response was swift. A week later he wrote:
I have a considerable collection of photographs, but exhibits and displays are usually selected from illustrations in my books...Again, when I know a little more of what you are interested in I can make suggestions and pull out proofs etc.
Thus began the acquisition, from 1970-1975, of over two hundred individual works by Adams, the most popular images sometimes duplicated, usually with differing dimensions.
Virtually Adams' entire career is represented in this magnificent group: the walls of the company were graced with small, early Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras; icons of the next three decades - the majority printed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many in the breathtaking 'mural' size - such as Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite Valley, 1944, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 and Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958; as well as prints from each of his seven portfolios, published from 1948 to 1976. Many of the photographs are printed on semi-matte, lightly textured paper and a significant portion mounted on Hi-Art Illustration Board, used by Adams from the late 1960s until around 1970. The mural prints, flush-mounted on heavy board, are characteristically unsigned, although many bear the 'Carmel' credit stamp on the reverse of the mount. These magnificent, oversized examples of Adams' most significant work would have - at least initially - been displayed open-faced. The company also retained many of Adams' original credit labels - now affixed to the frame backing (an example of which is reproduced on the opposite flap).
From the voluminous and cordial exchange of correspondence between the two men during this period (reproduced in part at the end of the catalogue), Adams was not content to simply fulfill orders for photographs. He considered the association with his client to be an ongoing, homogenous project. Adams not only visited the new office space in Los Angeles, but also advised on color schemes for the walls, the lighting, placement and spacing of the images, as well as specifying frames (ordered initially from Neil Weston) and hanging devices, subsequently replaced with more modern hardware.
It is worth noting that the titles and negative dates of duplicate images in the collection can vary. This is quite typical of Adams, who confessed that 'Years are jumbled and I cannot remember dates. But my recall of place and experience is precise.' These 'jumblings' have been faithfully reproduced in the cataloguing for the sake of accuracy. For ease of use, however, the index at the back of the catalogue lists all titles with any inconsistencies removed.
Christie's is honored to offer the following 121 lots from this singular commission - the largest collection of Adams' work still in private hands. Many of the images are extremely rare and have never been offered at auction. An especial thanks should be extended to the curator of the collection; her help has been invaluable in shaping this extraordinary sale. (Laura Paterson)