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Image of Sunrise, Mount Tom, Sierra Nevada, California

Ansel Adams , (Feb 20, 1902–Apr 23, 1984)

Sunrise, Mount Tom, Sierra Nevada, California

c. 1948
15 5/8 in. x 19 5/16 in. (39.69 cm x 49.05 cm)

Medium and Support: gelatin silver print
Credit Line: gift of Robert A. Feldman (PA 1954) in memory of Beth Lisa Feldman
Accession Number: 1977.175.11

Commentary

Rooted in past and present, Ansel Adam’s breathtaking views of the American West perpetuate the optimistic romanticism of 19th-century photographs while embodying the aesthetics of 20th-century modernist expression. Inspired by photographers Carleton Watkins, and Eadweard Muybridge, Adams was equally influenced by the art of his time. Initially working in a painterly and soft-focus pictorialist style, Adams and fellow California photographers, including Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and Sonia Noskowiak, banded together in 1932 as Group f/64, promoting “pure” photography via sharply focused and unmanipulated prints.
This interplay of the historic and contemporary is paralleled by Adams’s competing interests in both the spiritual and scientific. Convinced of nature’s redemptive powers, he remained committed to the ideal landscape throughout his career—but one that was less about accuracy than the emotions it inspired. Like the 19th-century pioneers who set out to tame the wilderness, Adams used technology to bend nature to his vision. Using filters and a variety of techniques that determined the expressive power, visual quality, and tonal range of the print before exposure, he made nature match his mind’s eye. Reconciling these seemingly contradictory themes and concerns was one of the hallmarks of his artistic achievement.

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Portfolio VII

1977.175.1-12

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