Ansel Adams - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • With its distinct selection of images and the characteristically high quality of its photographic printing, Ansel Adams’s Portfolio Four stands out as one the photographer’s most sophisticated publishing projects. For this portfolio, published in 1963, Adams chose images from the many decades of his career up to that point. The photographs showcase his incomparable artistry, as well as his deep concern for natural beauty and its preservation – convictions he shared with his friend Russel Varian, to whose memory he dedicated this portfolio. Each photograph is paired with a quote by Varian and the poetry of John Osborne Varian, Russell’s father, printed on its paper folio.


    This example of Ansel Adams’s Portfolio Four: What Magnificent Word was gifted to Dorothy Varian, wife of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Russell Varian. It was given to help secure Varian’s dream of protecting what is now Castle Rock State Park in California, which contains lands that Varian loved. Dorothy Varian fulfilled her husband’s dream after his death in 1959. She worked with Sempervirens Fund to create Castle Rock State Park in 1968. This portfolio was bequeathed to Sempervirens Fund in her will to help benefit the park.


    Sempervirens Fund is California's first land trust, founded in 1900 to protect redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains. Proceeds from the sale of Ansel Adams’s Portfolio Four: What Magnificent Word will support the ongoing care, expansion, and recreational experiences at Castle Rock State Park, in Los Gatos, California. 

    • Provenance

      Gift from the photographer to Dorothy Varian, wife of Russell Varian
      Bequeathed to Sempervirens Fund to benefit Castle Rock State Park, California

    • Literature

      Szarkowski, The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, pls. 1-15 (Part IV)
      Alinder and Szarkowski, Ansel Adams: Classic Images, pls. 23, 48, 55, 68
      Stillman, Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, pp. 228, 230, 328, 330, 344, 351, 390, 391, 399, 403

    • Catalogue Essay

      The photographs in this portfolio are as follows:

      Teklanika River, Mount McKinley National Park, Alaska, 1947
      Sequoia Roots, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California, circa 1950
      Leaf, Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska, 1948
      Dunes, Oceano, California, 1963
      Cathedral Peak and Lake, Yosemite National Park, California, circa 1960
      Vernal Falls, Yosemite Valley, California, circa 1948
      Clearing Storm, Sonoma County Hills, California, 1951
      Oak Tree, Sunset City, Sierra Foothills, California, 1962
      Castle Rock, Summit Road Above Saratoga, California, 1963
      Northern California Coast Redwoods, circa 1960
      Orchard, Early Spring, Near Stanford University, California, circa 1940
      Siesta Lake, Yosemite National Park, California, circa 1958
      Storm Surf, Timber Cove, California, circa 1960
      Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, California, 1941
      Sierra Nevada, Winter Evening, from The Owens Valley, California, 1962

Property of Sempervirens Fund Sold to Benefit Castle Rock State Park, California


Portfolio Four: What Majestic Word. In Memory of Russell Varian

San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1963. Fifteen gelatin silver prints.
Varying dimensions from 6 3/4 x 8 7/8 in. (17.1 x 22.5 cm) to 10 x 12 3/4 in. (25.4 x 32.4 cm) or the reverse
Each signed in ink on the mount; numbered '232' in ink on the portfolio label affixed to the reverse of each mount. Numbered '232' in ink on duplicate colophons; printed introduction by Dorothy Varian. Individual letterpress paper folios. Enclosed within a gray linen gilt-lettered portfolio with flaps and ties. Number '232' from an edition of 260, of which 250 were for sale.

Full Cataloguing

$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $44,450

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023