Ansel Adams “The Museum Set” and Andreas Feininger Prints at the Berkshire Museum

The stunning work of Ansel Adams ("Aspens" on the left) and Andreas Andreas Feininger ("Wentletrap Shell" on the right) brings two masters of photography to the Berkshire Museum.

The stunning work of Ansel Adams (“Aspens” on the left)* and Andreas Andreas Feininger (“Wentletrap Shell” on the right) brings two masters of photography to the Berkshire Museum.

Berkshire Museum presents

Ansel Adams: Masterworks

February 9 to June 2, 2013

Pittsfield, Mass. – Berkshire Museum presents the special photography exhibition Ansel Adams: Masterworks from February 9 to June 2, 2013. An opening reception will be held Saturday, February 9, from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibition features forty-eight works by Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984), about two-thirds of a selection Adams made late in his life to serve as a succinct representation of his life’s work. He himself felt these photographs were his best. The images are from the Collection of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA.

Called “The Museum Set,” these works reveal the importance Adams placed on the drama and splendor of natural environments, from Yosemite National Park to a secluded grove of aspens; from the Sierra Nevada range to a barn in Cape Cod. Included are many of Adams’ most famous and best-loved photographs which encompass the full scope of his work: elegant details of nature, architectural studies, portraits, and the breathtaking landscapes for which he is revered. The exhibition also includes a photo portrait of Ansel Adams by James Alinder.

In a career that spanned more than five decades Ansel Adams became one of America’s most beloved landscape photographers and one of its more respected environmentalists. There are few artists whose name and works represent the extraordinary level of popular recognition and artistic achievement as that of Ansel Adams. Adams profoundly influenced the course of 20th century photography not only through his sumptuous and technically precise images, but also by means of his devotion to advancing the cause of photography as an art form. As an artist, educator, innovator, and writer, he helped establish many of the institutions that have come to represent the highest aspirations of the medium of photography.

Ansel Adams* (1902-1984)

Ansel Adams* (1902-1984)

Looking at his body of work, it seems fortunate that Ansel Adams gave up on the piano and decided to become a full-time professional photographer at about the time that some of his work was published in limited edition collections, such as Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras (1927) and Taos Pueblo (1930), with text written by Mary Austin. His first important one-man show was held in San Francisco in 1932 at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum.

Adams went on to open the Ansel Adams Gallery for the Arts. He also taught, lectured, and worked on advertising assignments in the San Francisco area. During the 1930s he also began his extensive publications on methods of photography, insisting throughout his life on the importance of careful craftsmanship. In 1936 Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) gave Adams a oneman show in his New York gallery—only the second time the work of a young photographer was exhibited by Stieglitz.

In 1937 Adams moved to Yosemite Valley close to his major subject and began publishing a stream of volumes, including Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail (1938), Illustrated Guide to Yosemite Valley (1940), Yosemite and the High Sierra (1948), and My Camera in Yosemite Valley (1949).

One of the pioneers of new ideas on photography

In 1930 Adams met the famous photographer Paul Strand (1890–1976) while they were working in Taos, New Mexico, and the man and his work had a lasting effect on Adams’s approach to photography. Strand encouraged Adams to change his approach from a soft expression of subjects to a much clearer, harder treatment, so-called “straight photography.” This idea was further reinforced by his association with the short-lived, but important, group of photographers known as f/64 (referring to the lens opening which guarantees a distinct image), which included Edward Weston (1886–1958) and Imogen Cunningham (1883–1976). This group helped the development of photography as a fine art.

If you are a digital photographer, becoming familiar with his “zone system” of photography will enhance your own understanding of the craft, and enable you to improve your own work. Seeing his prints up close, the blackest blacks, myriad shades of grey, and yet an immense amount of the fine detail comes through in every print. Seeing his work is an experience to be sought out. You will never look at a snapshot the same way again.

The collection was donated to Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA, by Dr. Fidel Realyvasquez in 2002. Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a 300-acre cultural complex located in Northern California on the Sacramento River. Its facilities include a museum with permanent, interactive exhibits and two large special exhibition galleries. The traveling exhibition is organized by Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA, in association with Landau Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA.

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Berkshire Museum presents

Nature Magnified: Photographs by Andreas Feininger

February 2 to June 2, 2013

Nature Magnified: Photographs by Andreas Feininger is exhibited concurrently with Ansel Adams: Masterworks, from the Collection of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA, on view February 9 through June 2, 2013. A joint opening reception will be held Saturday, February 9, from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“Photographer Andreas Feininger captures the intricate details of nature and explodes them into skyscraper proportions, creating a magical world of unreality,” says Maria Mingalone, Berkshire Museum’s director of interpretation. “Although most well-known for his sweeping vistas of New York, in the pictures chosen for this exhibition we see that Feininger combined his passion for nature with his love of precision, space, and structure in images he created of the most delicate spine of a sea shell.”

Renowned for his iconic cityscapes of New York, Stockholm, and Chicago, Andreas Feininger, the son of noted artist Lyonel Feininger, was born in 1906 in Paris, France. He studied cabinetmaking and architecture at the Bauhaus, the innovative design school in Germany, graduating in 1925. During his time at school, he began taking and processing photographs, and after moving to Sweden in 1933, he specialized in industrial and architectural photography. Feininger immigrated to the United States in 1939 and in 1943 became a staff photographer for Life magazine, a position he held for twenty years. A pioneer in experimental photography techniques, his images reveal a unique approach to scale and structure, applied to panoramic cityscapes and his lesser-known detailed portraits of natural objects. Feininger wrote more than 30 books, including The Complete Photographer and Forms of Nature and Life.

Nature Magnified: Photographs by Andreas Feininger features some of the artist’s most striking black and white portraits of objects from nature. In 2011, Berkshire Museum acquired 129 photographs by Andreas Feininger from the estate of Feininger’s late wife, Wysse Feininger. At that time, several museums across the country, including the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., were invited to make selections for their collections. Berkshire Museum was invited because of the unique nature of its art and natural science collections, and for its curatorial approach of combining art and nature in exhibitions that make creative connections among these disciplines. Nearly 50 selected images will be on view this winter for the first time in Nature Magnified: Photographs by Andreas Feininger. They include a predominant proportion of images devoted to sea shells, but also include images of bones, spiders and spider webs, teeth, and tendrils of plant life, among the finely observed natural elements.

PROGRAMS

Exhibition Opening Reception

Saturday, February 9, 5-7 p.m., free and open to the public

Ansel Adams: Masterworks

From the Collection of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA

February 9 – June 2, 2013

This exhibition of forty-eight photographs by Ansel Adams (1902-1984), selected by Adams himself to represent the best of his life’s work, includes iconic landscapes and architectural studies.

Nature Magnified: Photographs by Andreas Feininger

February 2 – June 2, 2013

Photographer Andreas Feininger, most well-known for his depictions of the city of New York, also excelled at capturing the intricate details of nature. A selection of Feininger’s unique shell photographs are paired with actual shells from the Museum’s expansive natural science collection.

Berkshire Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413.443.7171. Museum admission is $13 for adults and $6 for children. Members and children aged three and under enjoy free admission.

The Museum is located at 39 South Street on Route 7 in downtown Pittsfield. Berkshire Museum was established by Zenas Crane in 1903 as a museum of art and natural history. Little Cinema is open year-round; Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, Aquarium, and other exhibits are ongoing.

* Copyright notices:

Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958. Photograph by Ansel Adams

©2012 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Portrait of Ansel Adams by James Alinder. Courtesy Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA.

©2012 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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