Knoxville Museum of Art Acquires Ansel Adams Smoky Mountains Photograph

November 18, 2009

The Knoxville Museum of Art announces the acquisition of Dawn, Autumn Forest, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee (1948) by legendary American photographer Ansel Adams.   Adams (1902-1984) is best known for his timeless black-and-white images of Yosemite National Park and other natural wonders of the American West.  In 1948, however, he traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—his first and only recorded visit to Tennessee—in order take photographs as part of a Guggenheim Fellowship on America’s national parks and monuments.

Evidence suggests Adams discovered the Smokies to be an intimidating subject. In a letter of October 9, 1948, the artist confides that “The Smokys [sic] are OK in their way, but they are going to be devilish hard to photograph…”  Adams only published four images from his visit.  Prints of these are little known and exceedingly rare.  The KMA was able to acquire one of the four, Dawn, Autumn Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, thanks to generous financial support from Patricia and Alan Rutenberg and Mary Ellen and Steve Brewington.

According to KMA Executive Director David Butler, “The museum has recently refined its mission to include the rich history of the visual arts in East Tennessee; the acquisition of this masterwork by Ansel Adams represents a strong commitment to this exciting new direction.  This photograph is just one of the many high points in a long, fascinating, and largely unknown story that the KMA is proud to celebrate.”

Dawn, Autumn Forest, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee will be on display in the KMA main lobby before being incorporated into Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee, the museum’s permanent installation devoted to the art and artists of our region.

The KMA is seeking prints of Adams’ other three published images of the Smoky Mountains with the hope that it can become the first museum to acquire a complete set.