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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Ansel Adams Prints Top Lots at Swann Galleries Auction

Two versions of Ansel Adams’s iconic image of “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”, 1941, sold to collectors at Swann Galleries’ auction of Photographic Literature & Fine Photographs on December 8.

Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams, “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”. Silver print, 13 x 17 6/16 inches. Estimate $350,000-450,000. Photo: Swann Auction Galleries.

A very rare vintage print created in 1948 that was signed and inscribed by Adams to Valentino Sarra, a photographer and W.P.A. poster designer and friend of Adams, sold for $360,000. It was one of only approximately 10 vintage prints Adams rendered with a delicate tonal quality.

The other version of the image, printed in the 1960s, showed greater contrast and a dramatically dark sky. It brought $48,000. “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” is quite possibly Adams’s best-known work. It depicts a rural cemetery in the foreground with gravestones illuminated by the setting sun. A waxing moon hovers above a bank of clouds that meet mountains framing the horizon.

Daile Kaplan, Vice President and Photography Specialist, said, “Our sale results reflect the growing market for works by classical photographers, with two different versions of Ansel Adams’s “Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico” selling for competitive prices. And for the third time, a photograph by David Heath set a record at Swann.”

The Heath image was Washington Square, a close-up portrait of an African-American boy, silver print, 1958, which brought $16,800. Other mid-century highlights included Harry Callahan’s poetic view of trees set against a white background, “Chicago”, silver print, 1950, printed early 1970s, $16,800; Ruth Bernhard’s “Two Leaves”, toned silver print, 1952, printed 1970s-80s, $6,960; and André Kertész’s view of snow-covered Washington Square (Winter), silver print, 1954, printed early-mid 1970s, $10,200.

Two of Kertész’s best-known modernist images were also in the sale. An oversize silver print of “Satiric Dancer”, 1926, printed 1970s, sold for $14,400; and “Chez Mondrian”, silver print, 1926, printed late 1960s, $7,200.

Among a number of Edward Weston highlights were “Wm. Edmondson, Stonecutter of Nashville”, ferrotyped silver print, 1941, $9,000; and two images printed by Cole Weston, “Shell”, silver print, 1931, printed 1970s, $15,600, and “Nude” [Charis, Santa Monica], silver print, 1936, printed no later than 1971, $10,200.

A select group of 36 images by Walker Evans from American Photographs and other early projects, 1929-71, printed 1976-79, realized $19,200. The silver prints by John Hill and Amos Chan from the original negatives were made for two posthumous publications.

Other desirable groups of images included “In Chicago”, a portfolio with 12 photographs by Harry Callahan, Barbara Crane, John Szarkowski, and others, 1935-79, printed 1983, $13,200; and six silver prints from Helmut Newton’s “Private Property, Portfolios I-III”, containing portraits of David Hockney, Karl Lagerfeld and Sigourney Weaver, among other celebrities, 1973-83, printed 1984, $14,400.

Rounding out the Photographs session were early images, such as Lewis Carroll’s “Portrait of Emily Cecilia Harrison”, albumen print, circa 1860, $7,800, and group of 24 studies from Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris by Louis-Émile Édouard Durandelle, albumen prints, circa 1865-74, printed 1875-76, $6,960; several of Lewis W. Hine’s images of child workers, among them “Oyster Shuckers”, Port Royal, South Carolina, silver print, 1908-12, $9,600; Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Premier at La Scala, Milan, silver print, 1933, printed 1995, $16,800; Yousuf Karsh’s “Portrait of Sir Winston Churchill”, silver print, 1941, printed 1960s, $9,600; and Steve McCurry’s celebrated photo of an Afghan “Girl with Piercing Eyes”, cibachrome print, 1985, printed circa 2003, $7,200.

Highlights of the Photographic Literature portion of the sale included early works such as Francis Frith’s “Egypt Nubia and Ethiopia”, 100 albumen stereoviews, London, 1862, $10,200; and “Camera Work Number 20”, featuring three images by Stieglitz, New York, 1907, $6,000.

Classic modern books included a deluxe limited edition of Berenice Abbott’s American Photographer, one of 420 signed by Abbott and issued with a signed silver print, New York, 1982, $4,560; a signed copy of David Heath’s “A Dialogue with Solitude”, New York, 1965, $4,560; and Robert Frank’s “The Lines of My Hand”, Tokyo, 1972, $4,800.

Japanese books of note were Kazuo Kenmochi’s ‘Narcotic Photographic Document’, Tokyo, 1963, and Shomei Tomatsu’s ‘Nagasaki 11:02’, Tokyo, 1966, $4,560 each; and Yutaka Takanashi’s Toshi-e [Towards the City]. 2 volumes, Tokyo, 1974, $4,080.

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