S otheby’s is honored once again to present for sale a selection of exceptional Ansel Adams photographs from the collection of David H. Arrington. As David Arrington reflected, “Every serious photographer eventually discovers Ansel Adams. His methods and teaching are pure and systematic genius.” David’s early interest in photography began behind the camera, taking pictures as a teenager. After graduating from Texas Tech University in 1983, he moved to Midland to pursue a career in the Permian Basin’s oil and gas industry. He began collecting Ansel Adams photographs, slowly at first but soon with unbridled enthusiasm. On trips to Santa Fe, he formed a friendship with the gallerist Andrew Smith, and together they hunted for the best and rarest Adams photographs. Through Andrew, David met Michael and Jeanne Adams, the photographer’s son and daughter-in-law, and visited them at their Carmel home in 2006 and 2007. Thanks to these visits, David had the incredible opportunity to acquire rare photographs by Adams directly from the photographer’s family – including the early print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (Lot 26) that hung for decades in Adams’ Yosemite home. Passed down from Adams to his wife Virginia, and subsequently to his son and daughter-in-law, these photographs are at the heart of David’s collection.
Photographs by Ansel Adams are © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust
Spotlight on Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
Not only is Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941) one of Ansel Adams’ most recognizable images, but it also exemplifies his evolving printing technique. The impact of later prints relies on stark tonal contrasts, whereas Adams’ early prints evince more subtle gradations. The few extant prints made close to the time of the 1941 negative present a twilight scene bathed in the last rays of the winter sun, with gauze-like clouds clearly defined in the sky. The more commonly found later prints appear wholly different: they present a nighttime view that relies on high contrast developed in the darkroom.
Ansel Adams and Yosemite
More than a quarter of the photographs featured in this auction were taken at Yosemite National Park. Explore this map of Yosemite to discover where Ansel Adams shot some of his most beloved pictures. Please note that locations are approximate.
- Mt. Conness
- Yosemite Falls
- North Dome
- Lost Arrow Spire
- Half Dome
- Mount Lyell
- Lost Valley
- Cathedral Rocks
- Unicorn Peak
- Gray Peak
Master of Mountaineering
The World of Ansel Adams Stamps
Exact dating of Ansel Adams’ photographs is a complex endeavor. Adams was self-admittedly more interested in documenting technical information about his photographs rather than keeping a meticulous record of negative and print dates. In 2005, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, published the seminal monograph Ansel Adams in the Lane Collection, which includes an illustrated appendix of many studio stamps and labels used throughout Adams’ career. This monumental volume was made possible by a critical analysis of the The Lane Collection, then the largest and most comprehensive collection of Adams photographs in private hands and now the cornerstone of the BMFA’s photographs collection. The authors found that specific stamps were in use during certain years, which can help refine the print date of a photograph. In this image, the stamps on the reverse of ‘Trees, Castle Rock, California’ (Lot 82) point to a probable print date between 1962 and 1963.
- Stamp five, used about 1962 to 1963
- Stamp six, frequently used with stamp five, about 1962 to 1963
- Stamp 10, used about 1960 to 1980
Publications by Ansel Adams
Not only was Ansel Adams a meticulous printer, he was a gifted wordsmith and designer of books about photography, ranging from technical guides to beautifully illustrated volumes on specific bodies of his work. Here is a selection of Adams’ significant publications, arranged chronologically.
'The Four Seasons: Yosemite National Park'
'This Is the American Earth' (with Nancy Newhall)
'Illustrated Guide to Yosemite: The Valley, the Rim, and the Central Yosemite Sierra' (with Virginia Adams)
'Polaroid Land Photography Manual: A Technical Handbook'
'The Print: Contact Printing and Enlarging'
'Camera and Lens: The Creative Approach'
'Yosemite and the Range of Light'
''The Camera' (with Robert Baker)
'Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs'