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 Classic Images: From the Ansel Adams Archive

 July 9 - October 24, 2004


The Asheville Art Museum announces an exhibition of work by America's best loved and most renowned photographer, Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984.) Classic Images: From the Ansel Adams Archive is a collection of 81 silver gelatin prints hand selected by Adams towards the end of his life as the portfolio which most truly represented his life's work.

These awe inspiring images include many of Adams' most famous photographs and encompass the entire scope of his work from elegant details of nature through architectural studies and Southwestern village scenes to the magnificent landscapes for which he is so revered. The landscapes pictured range from his beloved Yosemite to the Pacific Coast, the Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Southwest. The exhibition includes three separate versions of what is perhaps Adams' best known photograph, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, each printed at different times in Adams' career and illustrating how his vision and technique changed and matured. (right: Sand Dunes, Sunrise, Death Valley National Monument, California. c. 1948. Photograph by Ansel Adams. © Trustees of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. Collection Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona.)

Arguably the most influential landscape photographer the world has ever known, Adams' expansive, heroic images of the grand American landscape set the tone for generations of landscape photographers to come. His special relationship with nature and belief in nature's inspirational qualities infuse his images with a potent sense of majesty and wonder. An ardent environmentalist, Adams was also a strong voice for the establishment of the National Parks, and throughout his long life consulted Presidents and others on the importance of America's National Park system.

Born to a wealthy family in San Francisco, Adams had little formal education. He was a discipline problem and, after a revolving array of schools failed to keep his interest, he was taught by his father and private tutors. A gifted musician, Adams first planned a career as a concert pianist. At the age of 13, he attended the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nearly every day for a year, an experience he later counted as one of the most inspiring of his life.  One of the great Worlds' Fair style expositions which were so popular at the turn of the century, the Panama-Pacific Exposition encompassed everything from the latest art to the most innovative technology. Adams was exposed to photography by, among others, the landmark California photographer Edward Weston, and paintings by Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet, Van Gogh and the Italian futurists. Enthusiastic about nature from a young age, and already a seasoned hiker and camper, Adams began taking photographs in 1916 on a family trip to Yosemite. He was to return to Yosemite every year of his life. His early enthusiasm for conservation led him to begin volunteering and working for the Sierra Club in his teens, an association which would also continue throughout his life.

Adams began working seriously as a photographer in the 1920s, and published his first book, Taos Pueblo, in 1926. Fame followed quickly thereafter, and Adams became one of America's best known and best loved photographers with remarkable rapidity. He founded the influential photography society Group f/64, and wrote their manifesto, which argued against the then popular style of Pictorialism, which focused on altering photographs to make them more resemble paintings, and for "pure" photography. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Adams became increasingly successful, both in his art photography and as a commercial photographer, a common combination at the time. He also began writing technical treatises and books on photography which are still used as standard textbooks. In the 1950s and 1960s, his teaching, writing and lecturing duties took up more and more of his time, and by the 1970s, he had essentially stopped taking new photographs.

Throughout his career, Adams was fascinated by reprinting his images, discovering new subtleties and changing tones as he did so. By 1980, Adams was a world figure and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Carter. He continued and intensified his fight for environmental protections and lobbied actively on environmental issues. After his death in 1984, Adams was further honored by the passage of the California Wilderness Bill, which set aside more than 100,000 acres as the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, and a 12,000 foot mountain in Yosemite was officially named Mount Ansel Adams.

In conjunction with Classic Images: From the Ansel Adams Archives, the Museum will present a concert of Classic American Music performed by pianist John Cobb in the Diana Wortham Theatre on Sunday, September 26 at 3:00 pm. There will also be repeated video screenings of the documentary "Ansel Adams" written and directed by Ric Burns on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons at 3:00 in September and October. Please call the Museum for more details.

The exhibition is organized by the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, and is accompanied by a 111-page, richly illustrated book which will be available in the Asheville Art Museum Shop.


Editor's note: See The 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition of San Francisco; An Art-Lover's Guide to the Exposition, by Sheldon Cheney (reprint of an entire book covering the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition of 1915); The Art of the Exposition, by Eugen Neuhaus (reprint of an entire book covering the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition of 1915); The Sculpture And Mural Decorations Of The Exposition, by Stella George Stern Perry (reprint of an entire book covering the San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition of 1915);

Also see American Photography:

For recent photos of Death Valley see Afterglow in the Desert: The Art of Fernand Lungren (1/12/01)

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Asheville Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.