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Plains Art Museum acquires Ansel Adams piece

Photographer Ansel Adams captured the image "Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park" in 1927. ©2009 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust / Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Mather III

If you know the name of only one photographer, there's a pretty good chance it's Ansel Adams.

Such is the fame of Adams, known especially for his landscape photos including his depictions of Yosemite National Park. And, thanks to a donation by a Philadelphia couple, the Plains Art Museum in Fargo is now home to one of those photographs.

Fargo native Mary MacGregor Mather and her husband Charles Mather donated Adam's "Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park," to the museum in memory of her mother.

"I think it's one of our most significant donations in recent history," says Rusty Freeman, vice president of curatorial at the museum.

Mary MacGregor Mather, who has lived in Philadelphia since 1957, says they made the donation to the Plains Art Museum in part "because I thought my mother would like art in her memory." She also says that she has "great affection" for North Dakota and for the museum.

What's more, Mary MacGregor Mather also says that other gifts of art could be forthcoming.

The piece is significant, in part, simply because it's an Ansel Adams.

In the book "Ansel Adams at 100," John Szarkowski writes that Adams' pictures have "revised our sense of what we mean when we say landscape."

Wayne Gudmundson, professor of photography at Minnesota State University Moorhead says that in "his prime, there was none better" as a photographic artist than Adams. The best of his works, says Gudmundson, are "grand in the finest sense of the world."

"They really do have that sublime feel to them," he says.

Further, this particular photo would seem to have a significance all its own. Szarkowski writes that on the occasion that the photo was taken "it came to Adams that the finished print might more closely match his sense of the emotional power of the experience if he revised the tonal relationships of the picture by exposing his negative through a red filter."

And, says Szarkowski, this is the "first conscious memory of what Adams came to call previsualization."

The image is not yet on display. Freeman says that because they recently acquired the piece, they have not yet set a timetable for unveiling it.