A Grand Vision: The David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Photographs
Live Auction: 17 February 2022 • 12:00 PM EST • New York

A Grand Vision: The David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams Photographs 17 February 2022 • 12:00 PM EST • New York

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

The Many Phases of Ansel Adams’ Moonrise


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 Created with Sketch.
  • Yosemite Falls Created with Sketch.
  • North Dome Created with Sketch.
  • Lost Arrow Spire Created with Sketch.
  • Half Dome Created with Sketch.
  • Mount Lyell Created with Sketch.
  • Lost Valley Created with Sketch.
  • Cathedral Rocks Created with Sketch.
  • Unicorn Peak Created with Sketch.
  • Gray Peak Created with Sketch.
  • Mt. Conness

    Ansel Adams
    Tenaya Lake, Mount Conness, Yosemite National Park, California
    circa 1946

    Lot 3

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Yosemite Falls

    Ansel Adams
    'Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Point'
    1932

    Lot 9

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • North Dome

    Ansel Adams
    North Dome, Washington Column, Yosemite
    1934

    Lot 35

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Lost Arrow Spire

    Ansel Adams
    'Ascent of the "Lost Arrow," Yosemite Valley'
    1947

    Lot 36

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Half Dome

    Ansel Adams
    'Winter, Yosemite Valley' (Half Dome, Apple Orchard, Winter, Yosemite)
    circa 1935

    Lot 38

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Mount Lyell

    Ansel Adams
    'Mount Lyell and Mount MacClure [sic], Yosemite National Park'
    1929

    Lot 52

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Lost Valley

    Ansel Adams
    'Lost Valley, Yosemite'
    1920

    Lot 53

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Cathedral Rocks

    Ansel Adams
    Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite Valley
    1938

    Lot 54

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Unicorn Peak

    Ansel Adams
    Unicorn Peak, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park
    circa 1936

    Lot 71

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Gray Peak

    Ansel Adams
    'Juniper, Crags in Gray Peak Canyon, Yosemite National Park' 
    circa 1936
    Lot 81

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.

Master of Mountaineering

A skilled mountaineer, Ansel Adams often trekked challenging terrain in order to photograph the majestic landscapes for which he is known. Recounting his frequent expeditions in the 1920s and 1930s, Adams wrote, ‘I could climb thousands of feet, on or off trails, carrying a backpack load of fifty or sixty pounds, with the ease and abandon of a mountain goat’ (as quoted in The Making of 40 Photographs, p. 15). Some of his most thrilling images document fellow climbers en route to destinations such as Blacksmith Peak in the Sierra Nevada range or the Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite National Park.

Murals

Ansel Adams’ mural-sized photographs are monumental in both scale and visual impact. The challenge of making large-scale prints fascinated Adams, who was keenly aware that many of his images could make a dramatic impact when executed in an oversized format.

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 Created with Sketch.
  • Stamp six, frequently used with stamp five, about 1962 to 1963 Created with Sketch.
  • Stamp 10, used about 1960 to 1980 Created with Sketch.
  • Stamp five, used about 1962 to 1963

    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Stamp six, frequently used with stamp five, about 1962 to 1963
    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.
  • Stamp 10, used about 1960 to 1980
    Icon Navy - Close - 24x24 Created with Sketch.

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.

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

Sell with Sotheby's

Sell with Sotheby's

Curious to know if your item is suitable for one of our upcoming sales?

Provide information and share images to request an online estimate now.

Start Selling
Close
arrow Created with Sketch. Back To Top