09-19-2014 09-19-2014
Skinner Auctions
Skinner Auctions Boston MA
2749B Boston
September 19, 2014 12:00 PMCalender

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) Fifty-Seven Photographs Documenting the Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps

Auction: American & European Works of Art - 2749B Location: Boston Date / Time: September 19, 2014 12:00PM


Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)

Fifty-Seven Photographs Documenting the Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps, c. 1942. Numbered "M.W.D.C. #..." in ink and stamped "PHOTOGRAPH BY ANSEL ADAMS" on the reverse of each mount. Gelatin silver prints in original plywood box with leather bindings (purportedly made by Adams himself), image/sheet sizes to 10 1/4 x 13 1/8 in. (26.0 x 33.3 cm), unmatted, unframed.
Condition: Mounted, most with unobtrusive silver mirroring at print edges and several with minor foxing on mounts.

N.B. Active between 1941 and 1946, the Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps (MWDC) comprised a group of volunteer women dedicated to providing war-related and emergency services during World War II. In the spring of 1942, Ansel Adams was commissioned to document members of the MWDC training for assistance in five main areas: Medical, Transportation, Communications, Canteen, and Air Raid Protection/Warden Services. The fifty-seven photographs selected by Adams to represent this project capture corps members reviewing maps, preparing meals, practicing rescue missions, and standing in formation, among other subjects.

A departure from his majestic landscape photographs made with natural light, Adams's MWDC works reveal carefully composed groupings and exhibit strong contrast with dark, rich blacks, especially the interior views, which were made with artificial lighting. According to his biographer Mary Street Alinder, "Adams had very recently codified his Zone System of exposure. He was able to expose each negative to the maximum effectiveness." Indeed, these works were made at the peak of Adams's career. The previous fall he had executed what is arguably his most famous photograph Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.

While the negatives for Adams's MWDC project are housed at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, prints of this series are rare, and in fact, Adams himself had none in his possession at the time of his death in 1984.
Estimate $15,000-20,000

Mounts sizes to 14 x 18 in. (35.6 x 45.7 cm). Additional condition: 1: small emulsion loss l.r., foxing on mount along left edge; 3: small indentation u.r., two minor accretions (possible fox marks) l.r.; 5: spot toning u.r. quadrant; 6: scattered minor surface crimps; 8: 1/4 inch areas of spot toning at u.l. and l.c., dense area of foxing at edges of l.l. corner; 9: small area of spot toning l.c.; 10: several shallow indentations, u.r. quadrant; 12: minor creases l.l.; 13: unobtrusive spot toning l.r.; 19: small loss u.l.; 21: area of spot toning u.c., ding to mount u.c.; 22: small accretion l.c.; 26: unobtrusive spot toning l.r.; 29: unobtrusive spot toning l.l.; 30: unobtrusive spot toning u.c.; 34: does not have Adams' stamp on the verso; 36: 1/4 in. indented line u.r.; 37: small dings at l.c.; 38: scratch and pinprick loss of emulsion l.l. quadrant; 43: light vertical scratch u.r.; 45: pinprick c.r.; 48: two pinpricks near subject's right shoulder and left elbow; 52: minor scratches/indentations u.l.; 55: chemical inconsistencies on surface in upper half.

The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Condition requests can be obtained via email (lot inquiry button) or by telephone to the appropriate gallery location (Boston/617.350.5400 or Marlborough/508.970.3000). Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner Inc. shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps, Air Raid Protection/Warden Services, biographer, New Mexico, Hernandez, Tucson, University of Arizona, Center for Creative Photography, mount u.c., chemical inconsistencies