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Ansel Adams

(1902 - 1984)

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Biography

A master of American photography, Adams was arguably the most influential American landscape photographer of all time. We owe much of our understanding of the Western wilderness and its preservation to his breathtaking images. 

Adams began to make mural size photographs in the 1930s when the U.S. Government began employing depression-era artists in nationwide mural projects. In 1935 he received a mural commission to promote the beauty of Yosemite during the winter months and later (1941) received a commission from then Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes. Ickes commissioned Adams to photograph the lands and Native peoples under the Department’s jurisdiction. It was Adams’ intent to create thirty-six photographic murals to hang in Washington and potentially motivate progressive preservationist policy. However, his project was never fully realized due to his conflicting time commitments as Vice President of the advisory board for the Museum of Modern Art’s new Department of Photography. WWII also foiled the project’s completion, preventing his government contract from being renewed. Adams did complete a number of now classic photographs from this project, however, and would become the contemporary authority on large-scale photographic prints, a process he referred to as “enlargements with a vengeance.” During the 1950s, Adams received some private commissions, such as a project from the American Trust Company, San Francisco (later Wells Fargo Bank), for giant mural-sized images of California’s vineyard, mountains and coastal scenes, exemplified in works such as Orchard in Bloom,  mentioned above and included in this exhibition.

While Adams’ murals will be featured, the remainder of the show will be augmented by classic Adams images of standard sizes showcasing the photographer’s striking sense of light, magnificent wilderness views, and unparalleled finesse with darkroom technique.