In 1980, the celebrated photographer Ansel Adams received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The accompanying citation read: "At one with the power of the American landscape, and renowned for the patient skill and timeless beauty of his work, photographer Ansel Adams has been visionary in his efforts to preserve this country's wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth."
A riveting exhibition of 115 of Adams' most memorable and surprising images is now at the National Museum of American Art. On view through March 29, "Ansel Adams, A Legacy: Masterworks from The Friends of Photography Collection" features a broad cross section of images from the artist's prolific 40-year career. Here we find landscapes from his travels through the Southwest, views of San Francisco, pictures of national parks, a variety of portraits, and intimate close-ups of nature, including Dogwood, Yosemite National Park, California and Leaf, Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska. Here, too, are such hallmark vistas as Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941, and lesser-known works such as Trees in Snow, 1932. The show leaves no doubt as to why Adams is one of the most admired artists of this century. "Like the granite face of Half Dome in his beloved Yosemite National Park," says exhibition curator Andy Grundberg, "Ansel Adams has achieved the status of an enduring monument in the public imagination."