I am so pleased to learn about this nationally acclaimed exhibition, “Ansel Adams: Early Works,” which is being shown at the Dunn Museum, 1899 W. Winchester Road in Libertyville, Illinois, from November 6, 2021 through March 27, 2022. Having spent time in California very near where he developed an artist’s colony, I feel a connection to Adams’ work.
Ansel Adams (1902–1984) was a giant in the field of landscape photography. One of the most influential photographers of his generation, Adams is famous for his dramatic photographs of the American West. His images were informed by his belief in the transcendental concept of the “sublime”—a complex combination of overwhelming awe and fear.
Many viewers are familiar with Adams’ heroic, high-contrast prints from the 1970s. “The upcoming exhibit focuses on the artist’s masterful, less well-known small prints from the 1920s through 1950s,” said Andrew Osborne, superintendent of educational facilities for the Lake County Forest Preserves, which operates the Dunn Museum. “By capturing the power of nature, Adams changed our understanding of landscape photography, solidifying it as a legitimate form of modern art.”
The exhibition features more than 40 original photographs. “I am so proud that an exhibition of this caliber is opening soon at the Dunn Museum,” said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. The Dunn Museum is nationally accredited, a distinction held by only 3% of American museums. Other accredited museums include the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science & Industry.
Adams was also a musician, naturalist, explorer, critic and teacher. For much of his early adulthood, he was torn between a career as a concert pianist versus one in photography. He famously likened the photographic negative to a musical score, and the print to the performance.
He has said that family and friends tried to convince him to continue with piano. “Do not give up your music; the camera cannot express the human soul,” friends told him. “I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can!” Adams said.
The exhibition is organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions LLC. All photographs are from the private collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg. Dan and Shirley Mayworm have provided local support along with the Preservation Foundation, the charitable partner of the Lake County Forest Preserves.
Adams’ frequent pilgrimages to photograph Yosemite began in 1916, when he was a 14 year old armed with a Kodak Box Brownie camera. In 1937, Adams and his wife, Virginia, moved to Yosemite and took over her father’s photographic studio. Like Monet with his serial paintings of haystacks or Edward Weston with his variegated photographs of the sand dunes in Oceano, Adams would return again and again to his favorite spots from which he would capture the spectacular changes of the seasons and endless variations in light and in clouds at Yosemite.
While other notable photographers felt compelled to document the Great Depression, and later World War II, Adams recognized his strengths and remained true to his purist vision. “I still believe there is a real social significance in a rock – a more important significance therein than in a line of unemployed,” he asserted in a letter to Weston.
Museum admission for residents is $6 for adults, $3 for seniors, $3 for youth ages 4–17, free for children ages 3 and under. Nonresident admission is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and youth. Plan your visit at DunnMuseum.org.
This pictur is of Steve Furnett, exhibitions and collections manager at the Dunn Museum, and Exhibit Designer Robin Hill opening the crate of original Ansel Adams photographs that will be on display in the exhibit. They arrived last week.
All photos are courtesy of Dunn Museum