The American Scene including Important Photographs from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation

The American Scene including Important Photographs from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 1029. Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

Property Sold To Benefit The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Of New Mexico

Ansel Adams

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Lot Closed

May 24, 05:28 PM GMT


150,000 - 250,000 USD

Lot Details


Property Sold To Benefit The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Of New Mexico

Ansel Adams

1902 - 1984

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

signed Ansel Adams (on the mount); signed Ansel Adams, titled Hernandez, New Mexico, Moonrise, and dated 1941 [partially crossed out and amended 1942] (on the reverse)

gelatin silver print, mounted

6 ⅝ by 9 ⅜ in. 

16.7 by 23.8 cm.

Executed in 1941 and probably printed in the early 1940s.

Helene Wurlitzer, Taos (acquired directly from the artist)

Acquired by bequest from the above circa 1963 by the present owner

Liliane de Cock Morgan, ed., Ansel Adams (Hastings-on-Hudson, 1972), pl. 63

Robert Doty, ed., Photography in America (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1974), pp. 130-31

Ansel Adams and Lawrence Clark Powell, Photographs of the Southwest (Boston, 1976), pl. 55

Martha A. Sandweiss, Masterworks of American Photography: The Amon Carter Museum Collection (Birmingham, 1982), pl. 125

James Alinder, Ansel Adams 1902-1984 (Carmel, CA: The Friends of Photography, 1984), p. 55

James Alinder and John Szarkowski, Ansel Adams: Classic Images, (Boston, 1985), pl. 32

Mary Street Alinder and Andrea Gray Stillman, Ansel Adams: Letters and Images 1916-1984 (Boston, 1988), p. 142

Therese Mulligan and David Wooters, Photography from 1839 to Today, George Eastman House (Köln, 2000), p. 643

Andrea Gray Stillman, ed., Ansel Adams: The Grand Canyon and the Southwest (Boston, 2000), frontispiece

John Szarkowski, Ansel Adams at 100 (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2001), pl. 96

Ansel Adams, Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs (Boston, 2002), p. 40

Karen E. Haas and Rebecca A. Senf, Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2005), pl. 37

Andrea Gray Stillman, ed., Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs (Boston, 2007), p. 175

Barbara Buhler Lynes, Sandra S. Phillips, and Richard B. Woodward, Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities (Boston, 2008), fig. 3 and p. 109

Andrea Gray Stillman, Looking at Ansel Adams (Boston, 2012), p. 119

Karen E. Haas, An Enduring Vision: Photographs from the Lane Collection (Boston, 2011), pl. 8

Quentin Bajac et al., eds., Photography at MoMA: 1920 to 1960 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2016), p. 49, pl. 32

Rebecca Senf, Making a Photographer: The Early Work of Ansel Adams (New Haven, 2020), fig. 6.15 

This brilliant rendering of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico exhibits the subtlety of tone, high level of detail, and open foreground that characterize Adams’ best prints of the image from the 1940s. In the sky area, delicate wispy clouds are visible, notably in the upper left and right portion of the image; these gauzelike swaths are not apparent in prints made even just a few years later. The overall effect of this print suggests a twilight scene, as opposed to the high contrast, night-time scene of the far more common later prints.

This photograph comes from the collection of The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. The name Helene Wurlitzer (1874-1963) is synonymous today with the close-knit artist community in Taos, New Mexico. Having spent her early life in Freiburg, Germany, and Cincinnati, Ohio, Helene journeyed to Taos for the first time in 1940 and was instantly drawn in by the area. She immediately purchased land with the intention of building a home, and by 1942 had taken up part-time residence. Her home, designed and built by local Taos architect Arturo V. Martínez y Salazar, hosted the likes of Earl Stroh, Andrew Dasburg, Rebecca Salsbury James, Emil Bisttram, and Thomas Benrimo, among many others. Helene quietly - and often anonymously - offered financial support to a multitude of artists and began collecting their work. One such recipient of Helene’s generosity was Ansel Adams, who photographed Taos and the surrounding historical landscape several times beginning in the 1920s. Ten photographs by Adams were acquired by Helene, including 9 rare views of Taos as well as the brilliant example of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico offered here. The scale, photographic paper, and presentation of these photographs are consistent, suggesting they were made by Adams at the same time. These rare early prints have been in the Helene Wurlitzer Collection for nearly three quarters of a century.

Adams printed Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, infrequently in the early 1940s. The negative, made quickly and under trying conditions late in the afternoon on 1 November 1941, proved difficult to print. To produce a print that effectively reflected Adams’ visualization of the scene, he had to expend a great deal of time and energy in the darkroom coaxing the image through the printing process. In December 1948, Adams undertook the task of reprocessing the negative, re-fixing and washing it, and submerging it up to the horizon line in Kodak IN-5 intensifier. His efforts increased the density in the foreground, thus making it easier to print. The photograph from the Helene Wurlitzer Collection is one of the exceptionally few prints that Adams made in the early 1940s before the negative was intensified.