Orlando Museum of Art

Orlando, FL





In Praise of Nature: Ansel Adams and Photographers of the American West


The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) presents "In Praise of Nature: Ansel Adams and Photographers of the American West" which will be on view June 2, 2000 through August 13, 2000. (left: Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976), Exploding Bud,1925, gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 inches, Collection of the Dayton Art Institute, Museum purchase, 1973.26)

This nationally touring exhibition explores nature's spiritual influence on photographers working in Western America between 1860 and 1950. Billowing clouds enshrouding mountain tops, towering pines shading wildflowers, jagged cliffs overlooking deep canyons - these are images of the American West, which have been a source of inspiration for photographers since they first ventured west of the Mississippi. On display are more than 150 rare photographs that have captured the essence of the American West during this time. "In Praise of Nature" shares the perspective of photography masters Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, William Henry Jackson, Eadweard Muybridge, Imogen Cunningham and many other greats. There are a significant number of vintage prints featured, which are works printed by the artist at the time the image was created.

During the 19th Century, photographers celebrated the unrealized potential and glory of the western landscape. Works by 19th-Century photographers including William Henry Jackson, Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge and George Fiske provide the setting for photography's venture into the West. With the turn of the century, photographers portrayed the West as an endangered wilderness, threatened by urbanization. 20th-Century luminaries include Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. (left: Edward Weston (1886-1958), Juniper, Sierra Nevada, 1937, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches, Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Anonymous gift, 46.23.4)

Carlton Watkins, Timothy O'Sullivan and William Henry Jackson were pioneers in the documentation of westward expansion. Ansel Adams, considered by many to be the most popular and important photographer in America, took this legacy, and along with Group f/64 contemporaries, created some of today's most widely recognized and memorable photographic images of nature. He gave dramatic interpretations of rugged, intricate beauty found in the Western landscape. Not only will visitors have the opportunity to view many of Adams' well-loved classic, monumental views of the American West, such as White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly and Winter Sunrise, but also featured are his more intimate, less-often-seen images of cacti and oaks. (right: Ansel Adams (1902-1984), Mount Williamson, The Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine, California, 1944, gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches, printed, c. 1960, Collection of the Dayton Art Institute, Museum purchase and gift of the artist with funds provided by the family of Ethel L. Rike, 1968.26)

Adams and his contemporaries portrayed the natural beauty of the West in ways that moved beyond the norm. The gritty, realistic renderings of their predecessors and the soft unfocused styles of the Pictoralist were replaced with bold, sharp, focused images by pioneers such as Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz, that expressed views of nature with an imaginative eye. Through the work of Strand, Stieglitz and Group f/64, photography gained acceptance as an expressive art by the middle of the 20th Century. Adams's keen artistic vision and technical proficiency became a foundation for a highly successful 70-year career, in which he produced more than 40,000 negatives and 10,000 fine prints that were included in 500 international exhibitions and numerous books. (right: Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942, gelatin silver print, 10 1/2 x 13 3/8 inches, Collection Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, 84:092:190)

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For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 12/30/10

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