ASPENS, NORTHERN NEW MEXICO
mural-sized, flush-mounted, framed, 1958, probably printed in the 1960s
30½ by 39 in. (77.5 by 99.1 cm.)
This majestic, mural-sized print is in generally very good condition. Unlike later prints of the image that can appear quite stark, the present photograph exhibits both a high level of detail throughout and an impressive range of tones.
This photograph is presented here in a modern mat and frame. As is typical of Adams murals that were originally displayed unglazed, there is minute chipping of the emulsion along the left and lower edges. This is not visible when viewing the photograph in its current matted and framed presentation.
This photograph has recently undergone conservation and a full treatment report is available from the department upon request. The print is dry-mounted to archival four-ply museum board and mounted again to its original mount. Horizontal bands of consecutive tiny creases are visible upon very close examination near the lower edge the print. In high raking light, several short and long linear scratches are visible, including a 4-inch vertical scratch near the left edge of the image and a 5-inch hairline scratch in the lower right quadrant. None of the aforementioned are immediately apparent when viewing this mural-sized photograph in its framed presentation.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Acquired from an auction to benefit the Redwood City, California, Unitarian Fellowship, early 1970s
Ansel Adams, Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs (Boston, 1983), p. 116
Ansel Adams and Mary Street Alinder, Ansel Adams: An Autobiography (Boston, 1985), p. 174
Mary Street Alinder and Andrea G. Stillman, eds., Ansel Adams: Letters and Images 1916-1984 (Boston, 1988), p. 314
Andrea G. Stillman, ed., The Grand Canyon and the Southwest (Boston, 2000), p. 85
John Szarkowski, Ansel Adams at 100 (Boston, 2001), pp. 104-5
Jane Swan Bush, ed., Ansel Adams: Trees (New York and Boston, 2004), p. 9
Andrea G. Stillman, Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs (Boston, 2007), cover and p. 375
It was the yellow leaves on the young Aspen tree that first caught Ansel Adams’ eye as he and his wife Virginia were driving along the winding highway through the crest of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in 1958. Setting up his 8 x 10 camera with Cooke Series XV lens, he made this horizontal composition, before moving his camera slightly to the left to make a vertical image of the same subject (see Lot 106). With his Zone System of exposure, Adams captured both the radiantly-illuminated leaves and slender trunks of the Aspens emerging from the dark recesses of the surrounding forest.
Of this image, Adams wrote, ‘The majority of viewers of the horizontal image think it was a sunlit scene. When I explain that it represented diffused lighting from the sky and also reflected light from distant clouds, some rejoin, “The why does it look the way it does?” Such questions remind me that many viewers expect a photograph to be the literal simulation of reality; of course, many others are capable of response to an image without concern for the physical realities of the subject’ (Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, p. 63).
No stranger to the mural-sized format, Adams began printing in this scale when he was commissioned by the Yosemite Park & Curry Company to produce a series of murals of to be displayed at the 1935 San Diego Exposition. His subsequent work on the government-sponsored ‘Mural Project’ in 1941 only enhanced his affinity for the impressive format, and he wrote several texts and articles on mural theory and practice: 'I was fascinated with the challenge of making a photographic print in grand scale' (Ansel Adams: An Autobiography, p. 187).
The horizontal Aspens would go on to represent the environmental advocacy of the Sierra Club, adorning their stationary during the 1960s and illustrating the cover of This Is The American Earth, the collaborative publication by Adams and Nancy Newhall, released to commemorate the exhibition of the same name in 1956.