Ansel Adams - Photographs New York Thursday, October 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • "To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surface and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.  Impression is not enough. Design, style, technique,—these, too are not enough. Art must reach further than impression or self-revelation. Art, said Alfred Stieglitz, is the affirmation of life.  And life, or its eternal evidence, is everywhere."
    —Ansel Adams
    The large-format print of Adams’s masterly landscape, The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, comes from an edition commissioned in 1975 by Adams’s dealer Harry Lunn. Lunn, operating under the name of Graphics International, Ltd., asked Adams to make large-format prints of three of his most iconic images: The Tetons and the Snake River; Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico; and Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine. All were printed on 20 by 24-inch photographic paper in a limited edition of 20, plus 5 artist proofs, although individual prints were not numbered. Adams’s prints in this large format appear on the market infrequently. A print of Tetons in this size has not appeared at auction since 2012.


    No other photographer of his generation experimented as adventurously or successfully as Adams with larger print sizes. The technical challenges of producing larger prints were considerable, and few photographers of his day thought of making images beyond the standard formats. Adams’ success with larger print sizes was trailblazing in his own time and was prescient of the current trend in photography in which larger prints by contemporary artists predominate.


    This photograph made during the brief period Adams worked for the National Park Service in 1941 and 1942. The purpose of his assignment was to create mural-sized photographs of the country’s parks that would hang in the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, D.C. The advent of World War II effectively terminated the project, but not before Adams had made some of the most indelible images of his career, including Tetons and the Snake River. Adams biographer Mary Street Alinder notes that this period in the early 1940s marked a departure from Adams’s 'intimate and quiet vision of the 1930s' to an increasingly expansive approach to photographing the American landscape: 'Image after dramatic image expressed the grandeur, strength, and purity of the motherland. Mountains tower and extend from horizon to horizon; boulders are monumental. Embellished with a catalog of clouds, the sky is full of promise, the air crisp and clear, the sunlight revelatory' (Ansel Adams: A Biography, pp. 202-3). These qualities are all on full display in the bravura print of Tetons and the Snake River offered here and resonate more profoundly in this rare large format.

    • Provenance

      The Halsted Gallery, Birmingham, MI, circa 1975

    • Literature

      Stillman and Turnage, Ansel Adams: Our National Parks, cover and p. 31
      Stillman, Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, p. 205
      Turnage, Ansel Adams: Our National Parks, cover and p. 31
      Adams and Newhall, This is the American Earth, p. 15
      Alinder and Szarkowski, Ansel Adams: Classic Images, pl. 35


The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Gelatin silver print, printed 1973-1977.
18 5/8 x 23 1/4 in. (47.3 x 59.1 cm)
Signed in pencil on the mount; Carmel credit stamp (BMFA stamp 11) with title in an unidentified hand in ink on the reverse of the mount.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $289,800

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department
+1 212 940 1225


Vanessa Hallett
Deputy Chairwoman, Americas and Worldwide Head of Photographs
+1 212 940 1243


New York Auction 7 October 2021