ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)
ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)
Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958
gelatin silver print, printed 1958-1962
label with typed credit, title, date and caption 'Photographed on 8 x 10 with 19 inch Protar. Taken after sunset with light from clouds -- considerable expansion of contrast (N + 2). This is the property of Edwin H. Land' affixed (on the reverse of the flush-mount)
image/flush-mount: 40¼ x 31 1/8in. (102.3 x 79cm.)
From the artist;
to Edwin H. Land, Polaroid Corporation;
gift to the present owner, 1988
Newhall, Ansel Adams: The Eloquent Light, Sierra Club, 1963, p. 19; Adams, Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, Little, Brown and Co., 1983, p. 63; Alinder and Stillman, ed., Ansel Adams: Letters and Images, 1916-1984, Little, Brown and Co., 1988, frontispiece; Stillman, Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, Little, Brown and Co., 2007, p. 373; Stillman, Looking at Ansel Adams: the Photographs and the Man, Little, Brown and Co., 2012, p. 200

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Lot Essay

In his Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, Ansel Adams writes that he made two photographs of aspens - a vertical and a horizontal version - within an hour of one another in a forest glade on a crisp autumn day in the Sangre de Cristo mountains north of Sante Fe. Both images, apparently straightforward arrangements of tree trunks lit by the soft reflection of the evening sky, are in fact an astonishing technical and compositional tour de force by the photographer. They have a graphic sophistication that is less evident in his 'grander' landscapes and are somewhat reminiscent of Japanese screen design. For Adams, they were not 'pretty scenes'; rather, 'cool and aloof and rather stately.' They were also, apparently, rather 'exacting' to print, requiring a careful recipe of toners and developers so that the resulting images were neither too dark nor too light.
This equilibrium is fully realized in this lot, a mural-sized version of the vertical composition. The subtly illuminated foreground trunks are a gateway to the shaded glade behind, with its complex interplay of trees and shrubs. John Szarkowski considered that 'Ansel Adams' great work was done 'under the stimulus of a profound and mystical experience of the natural world.' In the creation of Aspens, Adams invites us to undergo a similar process of enlightenment.
This exceptionally beautiful print of the image, as indicated by its label (illustrated), was originally in the personal collection of Adams' patron and friend, Edwin H. Land, founder of Polaroid. It was given to the present owner, a former employee of the Corporation, on the occasion of his retirement in 1988.
Mural prints of this image are extraordinarily rare. No other has been offered at auction in recent history.

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