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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)

Oak Tree, Sunset City, 1962

Oak Tree, Sunset City, 1962

Gelatin silver print 10 1/4 in. x 12 in. (26.04 cm x 30.48 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Artist

1963.11.13

  • In the early 20th century, American photography’s most influential proponent was Alfred Stieglitz, who made photographs, published the quarterly Camera Work from 1903 to 1917, and exhibited photography as a fine art in his galleries. In 1933, Ansel Adams traveled to New York City to share his portfolio with Stieglitz, and in 1936, the gallery owner offered to exhibit Adams’s work.
    Over time, Adams’s friendship with Stieglitz grew, as did his lifelong friendship with Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe. It is possible to read Alfred Stieglitz and Painting by Georgia O’Keeffe as a later portrait of the married couple, with O’Keeffe represented by one of her abstractions from nature. The portrait was taken only two years before Stieglitz died.
    The portfolio that attracted Stieglitz to Adams included signature images such as Monolith: the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite. The negative for this image was the last one Adams made during a daylong trek with friends on April 17, 1927, and he knew with the trip of the shutter that he had caught something exceptional. In 1927, Adams made contact prints, the format of the negative determining the image size. Only later would he print it with an enlarger so that he could more fully convey Yosemite’s grandness, as in this print from 1979.
    Like other professional photographers, Adams supplemented his livelihood with commissions, many of which featured subjects far removed from his dramatic visions of the Western wilderness. In 1962, Adams accepted a commission to photograph the rolling hills and open pastures just outside of Sacramento, producing descriptive images of foothill granite outcroppings and the dramatic branching of California oaks in grassy fields. Oak Tree, Sunset City is one of these photographs.


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