ANSEL ADAMS | 'PICKET FENCE'
Property from the Manfred Heiting Collection
mounted, signed in pencil on the mount, the photographer's San Francisco studio label (BMFA Label 4), with typed title, on the reverse, circa 1936
4¼ by 4¾ in. (10.8 by 12.1 cm.)
This early, semi-glossy print, on slick white Bristol board and with Adams's tight early signature, is in generally excellent condition. Upon examination in high raking light, several tiny pinpoint-sized matte deposits, and faint silvering along the right edge, are visible.
There is very faint glossy rubbing on the mount corresponding to where it came in contact with the mat window. The extreme edges of the mount are age-appropriately yellowed, and there is very minor wear.
There are a few abrasions on the reverse of the mount along the upper edge, and four hinge remnants. '300.503' is written in an unidentified hand in pencil on the reverse.
Karen Haas's and Rebecca Senf's book, 'Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection,' publishes the most comprehensive list to date of the studio stamps and labels Adams used throughout his career. The authors' assessment of the use dates of Label 4 are 1936 through 1944. This print was made no later than 1936, however, as it was exhibited that year at An American Place.
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.
New York, An American Place, Ansel Adams: Exhibition of Photographs, October - November 1936
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, An American Place, May - July 1982 and traveling thereafter to:
Tucson, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, October - November, 1982
Seattle Art Museum, December 1982 - January 1983
Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, February - April 1983
The Art Institute of Chicago, April - May 1983
Washington, D. C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, June - July 1983
Taken at Meyer’s Ranch circa 1936, this photograph is a summation of Ansel Adams’ most inventive imagery from this period. Along with fellow f/64 group photographers Imogen Cunningham (see Lots 103 and 133) and Edward Weston (see Lots 50, 55, 104-105, and 148), at the time Adams was intensely exploring ‘Straight Photography,’ refining each image into a print in which every detail and textured surface leapt from the page in an expression of the ‘simple dignity of the glossy print’ (unpublished manuscript by Ansel Adams, circa 1934, AAA/CCP). Adams classified this body of work by labeling his negatives with the letter ‘C’ for Composition, referring to images he produced which were detailed, close-up views.
Adams printed the photograph offered here for his 1936 solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s New York gallery, An American Place. It was one of 45 contact prints or very slight enlargements Adams selected for inclusion. In a letter to Stieglitz describing the printing process for the show, Adams wrote, ‘I tried to recreate the experience of making the negative. The pictures seemed to become more intense’ (Letter from Ansel Adams to Alfred Stieglitz, 11 October 1936, YCAL). Working tirelessly to perfect the presentation of each exhibited print, Adams commissioned a new label design from Lawton Kennedy and refined his signature so as not to distract the viewer from the image.
Following Stieglitz’s death in 1946, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall were invited by Georgia O’Keeffe to come to the gallery where they selected the present print and two others from Adams’ 1936 exhibition. In a letter to Adams the next day, Nancy Newhall recounted, ‘We accepted your generosity to the extent of adding three to our collection, and they are now hanging on the wall. One is the Mariposa courthouse against the black sky. The others are little jewels—one of a picket fence, and the other a perfect pair to it with similar forms but of weathered wood’ (Ansel Adams: An American Place, p. 33). The admiration for this pair of prints was one which Stieglitz had shared—the two ‘little jewels’ had been hung side by side during the original exhibition.
At the time of this writing, no other print of this image has been located. The negative for this image is housed in the Ansel Adams Archive at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson.