Ansel Adams – The Tetons and the Snake River

 

"Tetons and the Snake River" by Ansel Adams

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park

1942, printed c. 1950

gelatin silver print

31 x 41 in. (78.7 x 104.1 cm)

ANSEL ADAMS (1902-1984)

The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park

1942, printed c. 1950

gelatin silver print

31 x 41 in. (78.7 x 104.1 cm)

Provenance:

First president of The George Eastman House, acquired prior to 1960;
by descent to his family; from whom acquired by
Private Collection, early 1990s
Private Collection, Texas

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A trek off-the-beaten-path brought Ansel Adams to stand at sunset on this Wyoming site where, looking over riverbend, the iconic Tetons and the Snake River came into being. The viewer’s eye is drawn along the silvery, snaking river in the sunken tones of the foreground and around the bend to the high-pitched mountains of the Grand Tetons illumined by a dramatic sky. As Adams said of this vista: “The grand lift of the Tetons is more than a mechanistic fold and faulting of the earth’s crust; it becomes a primal gesture of the earth beneath a greater sky.”  This slow meandering then sharp thrust upward carries a movement spiritual and emotional as well as mechanical. Adams gloried in these cragged cathedrals of America and, through his imaging of them, Americans around the country reveled in them as well. For many citizens, it was through images that they beheld the grandeur of the country.

Adams printed his works for decades after he snapped the actual photo. This specific Tetons and the Snake River gelatin print was made in 1950 by Ansel Adams himself for Oscar Solbert, the first Director of the George Eastman House (now the George Eastman Museum) in Rochester, New York. The Solbert Family remained in possession of this print until 1998. Because of its careful protection in a private collection, this photograph is in strikingly beautiful condition.

Tetons is among the rarest of Adams’s large-format photographs due to the limited quantity ever printed. Only eight images were made from the Tetons negative in this mural size, and this one is rarified for its printing date of 1950, less than a decade after Adams captured the photo. In later years, Adams would allow two printing studios to print his works but enforced distinction of those works. Photographs printed by an outside studio are sepia toned, and those Adams printed himself, such as this example of Tetons, are in black and white.

Video

View our video of Ansel Adams’s The Tetons and the Snake River

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“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams

History

Ansel Adams approached the wilderness of America with reverence. His respect for the natural world animated his life’s work as America’s foremost landscape photographer. An avid technician of photography and its enthusiastic advocate, he lectured widely and published numerous manuals that remain influential technical texts today. An unremitting environmental activist, Adams wrote thousands of letters detailing and encouraging conservation philosophy to bureaucrats, newspaper editors, and fellow Wilderness Society and Sierra Club colleagues. He worked tirelessly in verbal and visual means, trusting clarity would light his path to truth.

More
  • Ansel_Adams_and_camera-WEB
    Ansel Adams as pictured in the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook and in “Yosemite Nature Notes” in January 1952. Photo by J. Malcom Greany, c. 1950
  • Ansel+Adams+on+Car-WEB
    Ansel Adams at work in Yosemite National Park
  • Adams-moonrise-WEB
    “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” (1941), The Lane Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • adams-monolith-WEB
    “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California” (c. 1927, printed 1974), The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces.” – Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams Photographs Sold at Auction

"Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park" (1938), gelatin silver print, 39 x 52 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: June 2010 for $722,500 USD
“Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park” (1938), gelatin silver print, 39 x 52 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: June 2010 for $722,500 USD
  • Strong result for a comparable subject and size
  • Printed c. 1950, the same period as our photograph
  • Sold for over $700,000 in 2010
"Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" (1941), gelatin silver print, 14 1/2 x 19 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: October 2006 for $609,600 USD
“Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” (1941), gelatin silver print, 14 1/2 x 19 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: October 2006 for $609,600 USD
  • Demonstrates the demand for the most iconic images from Adams’s oeuvre
  • Half the size of The Tetons and the Snake River
  • Sold for over $600,000 in 2006
"Aspens, Northern New Mexico" (1941), gelatin silver print, 30 1/2 x 39 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: June 2010 for $494,500 USD
“Aspens, Northern New Mexico” (1941), gelatin silver print, 30 1/2 x 39 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: June 2010 for $494,500 USD
  • Mural-sized image that sold in 2010
  • Less desirable subject than The Tetons and the Snake River
  • Achieved nearly $500,000 at auction in 2010

Comparable Photographs in Museum Collections

"The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming" (1942, printed 1980), gelatin silver print, 19 x 15 3/8 in., The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
“The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming” (1942, printed 1980), gelatin silver print, 19 x 15 3/8 in., The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
"The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming" (1942. printed 1976-1977), gelatin silver print, 15 1/16 × 19 1/16 in., The Philadelphia Museum of Art
“The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming” (1942. printed 1976-1977), gelatin silver print, 15 1/16 × 19 1/16 in., The Philadelphia Museum of Art
"The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming" (1942, printed 1980), gelatin silver print, 15 3/8 × 19 1/16 in., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
“The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming” (1942, printed 1980), gelatin silver print, 15 3/8 × 19 1/16 in., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Image Gallery

“When I’m ready to make a photograph, I think I quite obviously see in my mind’s eye something that is not literally there in the true meaning of the word. I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without.” – Ansel Adams

Additional Resources

Ansel Adams: Technique & Working Methods. Video from the Getty Museum
Ansel Adams: Visualizing a Photograph. Video from the Getty Museum
Exhibition now on view at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, “Ansel Adams: In Our Time”

Authentication

The definitive authority on the authenticity of paintings by Van Gogh, the Van Gogh Museum inspected this painting in January 2020 and provided this letter of authenticity. During that inspection, X-ray revealed a second painting under the surface – a portrait of a man.

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