Ansel Adamstook a new look at the work of this important and influential photographerthrough approximately 125 images drawn from The Lane Collection. Acquired byWilliam H. and Saundra B. Lane directly from the artist during a 10-year periodin the early 1960s and 1970s, the photographs showcase Adams’ extraordinaryrange and span the length of his six-decade career. Rarely exhibited prints werepresented along with several of Adams’ iconic landscapes, offering newinsight into one of the very few photographers in the history of the medium whosename and images enjoy worldwide recognition.
Adams’ art had not been seen in a solo exhibition in Washington for 10 years. Known for his dramatic black-and-white vistas of the American West, Adams was a versatile photographer who made portraits of artist friends, close-up nature views, striking architectural and urban views, and documentary images. This exhibition took a broad and inclusive look at Adams’ work, with particular emphasis on his early career. Ansel Adams was arranged chronologically in several sections: Early Work (including photographs of the High Sierra, Canadian Rockies, and Pueblo Indians), Group f/64: Exploring Straight Photography, Yosemite, The American Southwest, Alfred Stieglitz and New York, The National Parks, and Late Work.
Legendary for his dedication to craft, Ansel Adams was a restless and innovative experimentalist at heart, developing many now-standard photographic practices and reinventing his approach at many stages in his career. Though known principally for his imagery, he is perhaps equally important as a pioneering educator and a tireless crusader for the institutional recognition of photography as a fine art. Adams also played a seminal role in the development of the environmental movement in the United States. A longtime member of the Sierra Club’s board of directors, Adams intended his photographs to inspire the conservation of natural resources. His art had a great impact on public policy, particularly on the creation of the Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
Ansel Adams’ photographic style, which fuses romanticism, poetic vision, technical precision, and environmental advocacy, has had an unparalleled influence on all landscape photography in its wake—and on how Americans see and think about their nation’s wilderness areas.
About The Lane Collection
William H. Lane (1914–1995), a manufacturer in Worcester County, Massachusetts, began collecting 20th-century American paintings in the early 1950s by artists such as Arthur Dove, Charles Sheeler, Georgia O'Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Hans Hofmann, and Franz Kline, among others. Mr. Lane and his wife, Saundra Baker Lane, began focusing on acquiring American photography during the 1960s. The Lanes developed strong relationships with key American photographers Charles Sheeler, Ansel Adams, and Imogen Cunningham, as well as the family of Edward Weston, which resulted in their building broad, archival collections of some of the finest photographic work by these artists. By 1975, the Lanes had formed one of the most significant private collections of American 20th-century photography in the United States. Their collection is now hosted by the Museum of FineArts, Boston, under the supervision of Curator Karen Haas.
The close friendship between the Lanes and Adams shines through the selection of prints included in the exhibition, enabling a more personal and revealing view of an artist best-known for just a handful of his most iconic photographs. William Lane first met Adams in 1954 through their mutual friend, artist Charles Sheeler, and the two continued to correspond in the years that followed. In 1965 the Lanes acquired the entire photographic estate of Sheeler following his death—a pivotal moment that prompted them to start collecting photography in earnest, at a time when few people appreciated photographs as art. Shortly thereafter the Lanes began to incorporate Adams’ images into their collection. For the next ten years they worked directly with Adams—considering a wide range of his photographs, making visits to the artist’s home on the California coast, and corresponding through numerous letters—cultivating a very personal collection of his works.