Large Collection of Important Ansel Adams Photographs at Bonhams


New York—Bonhams Photographs auction on April 28 is led by an important selection of photographs by artist-activist Ansel Adams (1902-1984), known for his photographs of nature, and for his seminal role in the growth of environmental consciousness in the U.S.

The most notable lot from this collection is Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California, 1944, estimated at $150,000 - 250,000. The mural-sized print was taken 14,444 feet above sea level and about 11,000 feet above a little Californian town called Lone Pine, an environment that awoke in the photographer a great reverence for the Earth’s fast-fading natural beauty. This work was a gift from Adams to the environmentalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, Wallace Stegner and his wife, Mary, with whom Adams was friends for more than 40 years.

In her catalog essay about this work, Director of Photographs, Judith Eurich, writes, “They were like-minded about their reverence of the American landscape and shared a passion for the preservation of the American wilderness. Over the years, Ansel gave Wallace and Mary several of his photographs, including Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California, one of his best-known prints.”

More highlights from sale include Ansel Adams’s Maroon Bells, near Aspen Colorado, 1951 printed in 1974, and estimated at $50,000 - 70,000; and Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, 1944 (printed between 1973 and 1977). Yosemite remained one of Adams’ favorite locations since he first visited it in 1916, estimated at $30,000 - 50,000.

Other notable photographs in the sale include:  

  • Vogue Fashion Photograph (Paris) Schiaparelli Coat (Bettina) (A) by Irving Penn (1917-2009), one of the 20th century’s most influential fashion photographers. Estimated at $30,000 - 40,000, the photograph shows Bettina Graziani, one of the most sought-after couture models of the 1950s, who was engaged to Prince Aly Khan and who posed for all the leading fashion photographers of the day, including Irving Penn. 
  • Equivalent (Songs of the Sky) by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), estimated at $10,000 - 15,000. Most prints by Stieglitz are in museum collections and therefore rare to find in the market. This 1924 print was once in the possession of his wife, the celebrated American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe.    
  • kirathethinker.jpgHiromu Kira’s vintage print of The Thinker (est. $7,000 - 10,000), circa 1930. Kira took this, his most iconic image, at the camera shop in which he worked. It shows the moment when a customer needed instructions as to how to operate a recently purchased camera. It led to the pair visiting several locations, including the Hollywood Dam. There, Kira asked the customer to sit on the steps, where he took this famous image.  This photograph is the only print of the image to have ever been offered at auction. It has previously been exhibited at the Oakland Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Judith Eurich adds, “Iconic images continue to do really well at auction. The sale will offer not only some of the most important images by mid-century  American photographers, but also contemporary prints by Rineka Dijkstra, Andy Warhol, Shirin Neshat, Thomas Struth, Annie Leibovitz, and  Andres Serrano.” 

The auction will be held at 1pm. To view the online catalog, click here.

First image: Ansel Adams (1902-1984), Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California, 1944. Mural-sized gelatin silver print, printed between 1963 and 1973.  22 1/8 x 30 5/8in. Est. $150,000-250,000.

Second image: Hiromu Kira (1898-1991), The Thinker, c. 1930. Toned bromide print. 10 1/4 x 13 3/16in. Est. $7,000-10,000.

Auction Guide