'Ansel Adams: Compositions in Nature' Exhibition Captures the Life’s Work of the Renowned Artist, Environmentalist and Musician

  • September 02, 2021 20:43

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Mount Williamson, The Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California, 1944, printed 1973–75, Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984), gelatin silver print. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund. Photograph by Ansel Adams © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.
Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984), Bridalveil Fall, ca. 1952, printed 1960 from Portfolio Three: Yosemite Valley, Gelatin silver print on Kodak Medalist F paper, Courtesy of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Sabaroff. Photograph by Ansel Adams, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is set to host the exhibition Ansel Adams: Compositions in Nature. The exhibition, which features an iconic collection of more than 70 works by American photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984), will be on view at the Richmond museum from September 25, 2021, through January 2, 2022. Adam’s photography, as well as his lifelong interests in the environment and classical music, will be explored, allowing visitors to gain a full appreciation of the artist through special areas of the exhibition that will include Adams’ own musical recordings.

“Through this exhibition, VMFA celebrates Ansel Adams’ photographs which so dramatically capture the sublimity of the American landscape,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA Director and CEO. “In a career that spanned more than five decades, Adams became one of America’s most recognized and influential landscape photographers and one of its more respected environmentalists. His works continue to inspire us to take a deeper, even meditative, look at our extraordinary natural surroundings and appreciate the profound beauty around us.”

Adams’ works reveal the importance he placed on the sensational splendor of natural environments that might have been overlooked by the ordinary passerby. His use of light and shadow create photographs that abound with visual details, textures and patterns and evoke an emotional response and a greater appreciation of nature from viewers. Adams’ photography also supported his lifelong involvement as an environmental activist and his black-and-white prints became his greatest influence on environmental protections and conservation efforts. His photographs continue to resonate with viewers today.


Many of the photographs featured in the exhibition were selected by Adams to represent his life’s work. VMFA will complement the artist’s selections with works from the museum’s own permanent collection. Comprised of some of Adams’ most beloved images and never-before published photographs, these additions will provide a comprehensive survey of the artist’s career, demonstrating changes in aesthetics and technique, as well as his keen eye for visual composition and fascination with the natural environment.

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984), Sand Dunes, Sunrise, Death Valley National Monument, California, 1948, printed 1974, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Andrea Gray Stillman. Photograph by Ansel Adams, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

With the proliferation of photography in contemporary life, it may be difficult to imagine a time when taking a photograph was a visionary, planned and deliberate act. Adams was a pioneer and his work elevated the medium. “There are few artists whose name and works represent the extraordinary level of universal recognition and artistic achievement as that of Ansel Adams,” said Dr. Christopher C. Oliver, VMFA’s Assistant Curator of American Art. “Adams influenced the course of 20th-century photography not only through his striking, technically precise images but also through his devotion to advancing the cause of photography as an art form.”

An opening talk and performance on September 24 will be at the museum and livestreamed. Excerpts of “Ansel Adams: America,” composed by Chris and Dave Brubeck, will be performed by pianist/composer Michael Jefrey Stevens. Dr. Oliver will introduce the concert with an exploration of Adams’s lifelong connection to music.

More information about Ansel Adams: Compositions in Nature can be found at VMFA museum

Tags: photography

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