Ansel Adams - Photographs New York Wednesday, April 6, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Driving through New Mexico on a late afternoon in the fall of 1941, Ansel Adams stopped on the side of the road and hastily set up his camera and tripod atop his car to capture a small village illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun. The resulting photograph, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, is one of the most celebrated images of his career and has become a touchstone of Twentieth Century photography. Moonrise was first reproduced in U.S Camera in 1943 where it received a great deal of acclaim, but Adams for the most part declined requests for it because the negative was profoundly difficult to work with and required an extensive course of burning and dodging to yield a print that met his high standards. Yet requests kept coming. In 1948 he took the radical step of reprocessing the negative to intensify its tonalites and to facilitate the production of perfect prints. After the successful reprocessing he began, very slowly, to fulfill print orders. Even so, prints of Moonrise, in any format, made before the 1970s are very rare. Adams biographer Mary Street Alinder states that the majority of prints of Moonrise were made after 1970, at which point the market for fine art photography had been established and Adams had earned his place in the pantheon of great photographers.  


    The 1960s print of Moonrise offered here presents an especially nuanced rendering of the negative. Adams’s printing of Moonrise evolved over the decades. Earlier prints show a gradual tonal scale with an emphasis on the mid-tones and more detail in the sky; later prints are far more dramatic tonally, with deeper blacks and brighter whites, in keeping with the general trend in Adams’s print-making style. The print offered here shows a pleasing preponderance of gray tones, with a few wispy clouds in the twilight sky and a masterful interpretation of the foreground punctuated by the brightly lit adobe structures and tombstones. This print’s comparatively delicate tonality and modest size offer a novel and intimate visual experience of this famous image.

    • Provenance

      Christie's, New York, 18 April 2001, lot 127
      Charles Isaacs Photographs, New York
      Kicken Berlin, Berlin
      Private Collection, Germany

    • Literature

      Adams, Ansel Adams: The Making of 40 Photographs, p. 40
      Alinder and Szarkowski, Ansel Adams: Classic Images, pl. 32
      Haas, Senf, Ansel Adams, pl. 37 and p. 146
      Little, Brown and Company, Ansel Adams: The Grand Canyon and the Southwest, frontispiece
      Stillman, Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, p. 175
      Szarkowski, Ansel Adams at 100, pl. 96


Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Gelatin silver print, printed circa 1963.
10 1/8 x 13 3/8 in. (25.7 x 34 cm)
Signed in ink on the mount; Carmel credit stamp with title in an unidentified hand in ink on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$70,000 - 90,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 6 April 2022