Biggs Museum offers early look at Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams’ “Mount Williamson, the Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California, 1944” Reproduced by permission of the Trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. All Rights Reserved.

DOVER — Perfectly timed to capture the interest of summer visitors, the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover is offering a rare opportunity to view 40 photographic prints made by the late Ansel Adams.

The exhibition entitled “Ansel Adams: Early Works” opens on May 5 with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. and runs until July 30.

Mr. Adams is best known for his iconic large-scale photographs of Yosemite National Park in California, where he spent most of his adult life. His better-known images continue to be used to support and promote conservation.

“His work in the ’40s became deliberately larger, more sharp and clear, but these early works were the foundation for them,” Biggs curator Ryan Grover said.

Taken in the 1920s and 30s, these “hidden gems,” as Mr. Grover calls them, are more “romantic.” They are the work of a young man whose passion for photography began with a Kodak No. 1 Box Brownie camera. This was the camera given to young Ansel by his father on his first visit to Yosemite in 1916. The images produced by the Brownie were softer and somewhat dreamier than what we see in our hyper-realistic digital age.

Self-taught photographer Mr. Adams had a romance with nature and with the camera that made him famous, but prior to 1920, he made a living as a classically trained pianist. In 1945, he recorded an album for friends, comprised of 10 pieces by composers including Mozart, Scriabin and Bach.

“El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California, 1952.” Reproduced by permission of the Trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. All Rights Reserved.

Some of these compositions will be presented on June 7 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at a concert and lecture at the Biggs entitled “Ansel Adams as Musician: an Evening of Music.” Delaware Division of the Arts Fellow and professional pianist, Daniel Carunchio will be performing.

In addition, the galleries of the Biggs Museum will feature three complementary exhibits of works from area photographers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These include the reference photography of Brandywine School illustrator Frank E. Schoonover, whose works are in the Biggs’ collection.

Adding breadth to the subject matter, photographs of a 1937 trip around the world, taken by the museum’s founder, Sewell C. Biggs will also be on display.

The third dimension of images will be seen in the stereoscope work of 19th century Delawarean, Leonard C. Talley. Stereoscopes began appearing on the photographic landscape in the 1840s. These side-by-side images represent the earliest attempts at recreating the way humans actually see.

Amid the various photographs, visitors will find displays of the types of cameras that were used to create these beautiful windows into the past.

“Yosemite Valley, High Clouds, from Tunnel Esplanade,Yosemite National Park, California, ca. 1940”

“It’s an exhibit everyone can relate to,” says Mr. Grover, noting that this is somewhat of a tribute to the development of modern photography.

The Biggs Museum of American Art is located at 406 Federal St., Dover. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

General admission is $10, seniors 60-plus $8. Children under 12, students, active military and family with ID are admitted free.

Dee Marvin Emeigh is a freelance writer living in the Milford area.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.