EDWARD S. CURTIS A PRIVATE COLLECTION
“I like a man who attempts the impossible.” —J.P. Morgan
VINTAGE PLATINUM PRINTS
Winter – Apsaroke, 1908 Vintage Platinum Print (Also printed as a photogravure; Portfolio IV, Plate 127) This is one of Curtis’ most sought after and iconic images of winter in the Northern Plains. Photographed in the mountains of Montana, this image exemplifies both the beauty and the vigor of the lives of the semi-nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains. It also illustrates the central role women played in Native American life. This heavy load, which may have been carried for a long distance, exemplifies the strength and endurance of Native women and the important role they played in both their family’s and their tribe’s survival. PRINT BACKGROUND: This is a beautiful, warm impression of Curtis’ famous photograph of an Apsaroke woman bringing wood back to her tipi. The slightly oversized 12 1/4” x 16 1/2” platinum print is on Curtis’ original studio mount and is in excellent condition. It has a crisp Curtis signature, in ink, on recto, as well as Curtis’ blind stamp from 1908 and Curtis’ negative number (559-08). The print is in excellent condition and has deep, rich shadow areas. Only 1 in 200 of Curtis’ prints were created in the platinum medium and this is the only platinum print Cardozo has ever seen of this image. It is also very unusual in that it is still on Curtis’ original full studio mount. The mount also has Curtis’ vintage copyright sticker on the back, as well as holographic, period writing on the back stating: “Winter – Crow – Montana.” This photograph from the personal collection of Christopher Cardozo is the only large platinum print of this image that Cardozo has seen in his forty years of collecting.
The Vanishing Race – Navaho, 1904 Vintage Platinum Print (Also printed as a photogravure; Portfolio I, Plate 1) This is Curtis’ signature photograph. It is an evocative, emotional image that powerfully expresses the central idea and the principle motivator of Curtis’ thirty-year odyssey: that Native Americans having lost most of their land and much of their culture were passing into an unknown future. Curtis became deeply impassioned, and was moved to create his unparalleled record in 1900, when he saw clearly what rich and extraordinary lives and histories Native people had, and how it was disappearing in front of his eyes. For four years he searched for an image that would serve as a powerful visual metaphor for this idea. He finally found it while photographing with the Navaho in the sacred area of Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. The negative for The Vanishing Race is very difficult to print and most photographs of The Vanishing Race lack contrast and are typically overly dark and “blocked-up”. This is an exceptional example with an important exhibition history. PRINT BACKGROUND: This is an exceptionally beautiful platinum print of one of Curtis’ most iconic images. It is an unusually warm and open print that beautifully expresses Curtis’ artistic intent and vision. The print is on a heavy, textured period watercolor paper and has a delicate Curtis signature, in ink, on recto as well as Curtis’ blind stamp and negative number. The condition is near-pristine. This print also had an illustrious exhibition history: it was exhibited in ten European museums during 2005-2007. This vintage print is from the personal collection of Christopher Cardozo.
Slow Bull – Ogalala, 1907 Vintage Platinum Print (Also printed as a photogravure; Portfolio III, Plate 84) Tatánka-húnkeshni, a.k.a. “Slow Bull” Tatánka-húnkeshni was born in 1844. He was an important tribal leader and revered medicine man/spiritual leader. He accompanied Red Cloud on his first war party at age 14, against the Apsaroke. An extraordinary and honored warrior he engaged in fifty-five battles against a number of other tribes and struck first coup seven times. At age seventeen he captured 170 horses from the Apsaroke and received medicine (his spiritual power) from buffalo in a dream. He is noted both for his many acts of valor and bravery, as well as for his spiritual prowess. PRINT BACKGROUND: This is an exceptional platinum print. It has a luminosity that is rarely found in any photograph. It is a dramatically more vibrant impression than the photogravures made from the same negative. It has an unusual Curtis signature in brown ink on recto, as well as a crisp, clear blind stamp from 1907 and Curtis’ original negative number (520-07). The platinum print is 16 1/8” x 12 1/8”. The condition is excellent. Slow Bull’s clothing and accouterments are stunning; beautiful beaded war shirt, numerous eagle feathers, a hawk’s wing, intricate beadwork, etc. The print has an extremely unusual glowing/luminous quality, giving it a feel that emphasizes Slow Bull’s spiritual nature, while his clothing clearly shows his stature as a warrior and tribal leader.
“It’s such a big dream, I can’t see it all.” —Edward S. Curtis
Wolf Lies Down – Apsaroke, 1908 Vintage Tissue Photograuve from Portfolio IV, Plate 123 Tset-hupsh, a.k.a. “Wolf Lies Down” Tset-hupsh was born in 1843. A noted warrior and member of the Fox clan. He lead various war parties, counted first coup, and received other honors for his bravery and valor. He once, while suffering from a head wound, rode back into battle to rescue his brother-in-law who had lost his horse and was surrounded by the enemy. He purchased his hawk-medicine, paying the sum of five hundred elk’s teeth. PRINT BACKGROUND: This is a beautiful tissue photogravure in extraordinary condition. It’s a rich print with a superb exhibition history (a 10 museum European tour from 2005-2007). This photogravure has been professionally washed and de-acidified, as has been the over-mat. The non-archival under-mat has been replaced with a contemporary, archival mat. Tissue was the premium paper which only the King of England, J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, Edward Curtis and approximately ten other subscribers acquired.
Apsaroke War-Chief, 1908 Vintage Tissue Photogravure from Portfolio IV, Plate 112 Pédhifsi-wahpásh, a.k.a. “Medicine Crow” Pédhifsi-wahpásh was born in 1848. He was an important warrior who fought in many major battles, killed three men, led ten successful war-parties, had two horses shot out from under him, and counted coup numerous times. At eighteen he fasted for four days and received a powerful vision that foretold of the passing away of the buffalo and the coming domination of the white soldiers and settlers. This powerful warrior, photographed full figure, wears traditional Northern plains clothing with a beaded necklace, large abalone shells, with three fox tails hanging from his coup stick. According to Curtis, the Apsaroke, who lived in Western and Northern Montana surpassed all tribes of the Rocky Mountains both in their bravery and in their devotion to their spiritual lives. They were noted for their fierce independence, their pride, and vitality. For centuries they were surrounded by numerous hostile tribes but never succumbed. They inhabited both the mountains and the great Plains of Montana and the vigor required to survive in such an environment helped produce the character that Curtis so admired. Curtis only devoted two Volumes of The North American Indian to a single tribal group, the Apsaroke were one of them. PRINT BACKGROUND: This is a beautiful tissue photogravure in extraordinary condition. It’s a rich print with a superb exhibition history (a ten museum European tour from 2005-2007). This photogravure has been professionally washed and de-acidified, as has been the overmat. The non-archival under-mat has been replaced with a contemporary, archival mat. Tissue was the premium paper which only the King of England, J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, Edward Curtis and approximately ten other subscribers acquired. Tissue photogravures have always been sought after by the most serious collectors for their beauty, luminosity and subtlety.
Mosquito Hawk – Assiniboin, 1908 Vintage Tissue Photogravure from Portfolio III, Plate 102 Susbécha, a.k.a. “Mosquito Hawk” Susbécha was born in the mid 1800’s in present-day North Dakota in a beautiful area near the confluence of the Yellowstone River and Missouri River, near Lake Sakakawea. He participated in his first war party at age 14 and fought many times against the Piegan and the Dakota and counted coup numerous times. He was a noted warrior and a respected tribal member. The Assiniboin were a sub-tribe of the Dakota. They had separated from the Yanktonai by the early 1600’s. They ranged from Montana to southern Canada. They wore traditional Plains clothing, lived in buffalo-skin tipis and their staple food was buffalo. Like most tribes of the northern Plains the buffalo was at the heart of both their material and spiritual worlds. Like other semi-nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains they were hardy and adaptable, having to live in a variety of environments and depending on a variety of food sources. PRINT BACKGROUND: This is a beautiful tissue photogravure in extraordinary condition. It’s a rich print with a superb exhibition history (a 10 museum European tour from 2005-2007). This photogravure has been professionally washed and de-acidified, as has been the over-mat. The non-archival under-mat has been replaced with a contemporary, archival mat. Tissue was the premium paper which only the King of England, J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, Edward Curtis and approximately ten other subscribers acquired.
A Zuni Girl, 1903 Vintage Tissue Photogravure from Portfolio XVII, Plate 613 This is a classic early Curtis portrait of a young woman from the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico. The Zuni are well known for their extraordinary craftsmanship and artistry, as is evidence by this compelling image.
Girl and Jar â€“ San Ildefonso, 1905 Vintage Tissue Photogravure from Portfolio XVII, Plate 590 Pueblo women are adept at balancing burdens on the head. Usually a vessel rests on a fibre ring, which serves to steady it and to protect the scalp. The design on the jar here illustrated recalls the importance of the serpent cult in Tewa life.
Original Curtis Picture Musicale Poster
CURTIS’ PHOTOGRAPHIC PROCESSES Curtis employed an unusually wide variety of photographic processes. The vast majority of his photographs were printed as photogravures and virtually all Curtis’ photogravures were produced for his magnum opus The North American Indian. Curtis’ photogravures are typically of two sizes: approximately 5” x 7” or approximately 12” x 16”. They were printed on one of three hand-made papers: Japanese Vellum, Dutch “Van Gelder,” or Japanese “tissue”. Curtis also created a significant body of platinum prints (comprising oneforth to one-half of one percent of his extant body of work) which vary in size from approximately 4” x 5” to 24” x 32”, and possibly larger. Curtis platinums larger than 12” x 16” are scarce. Varying paper weights and surfaces were employed. Curtis also created a wide variety of silver prints. The most frequently encountered are called goldtones (or “orotones” or “Curt-Tones”) which, like platinum prints, also comprise approximately one-fourth to one-half of one percent of Curtis’ extant work. Curtis’ goldtones range from 4” x 5” to 18” x 22”. Based on current data, goldtones used a gelatin silver emulsion, which was suspended on glass (vs. paper) and after development were backed with gold-hued bronzing powders. Goldtones are virtually always framed in one of several original frames, most typically in a “bat-wing” style with gesso and compo over wood. Curtis also created gelatin silver paper-based prints for sale and/or exhibition and these are virtually always sepia toned and are rarer than platinum prints or orotones. There is also a small body of warm-toned gelatin silver prints, which incorporate a barely discernable screen pattern. Curtis also created untoned, gelatin silver “reference prints” which generally have a semi-gloss or glossy surface and are typically approximately 6” x 8” image size on slightly larger, single-weight paper.
Sensitized glass-plates, used by Curtis. This label was used to back an original Curtis goldtone.
CURTIS’ PHOTOGRAPHIC PROCESSES (CONTINUED) Gold-toned printing-out paper prints are collodian-silver prints, on single-weight paper. They are a printing-out process and goldtoned. They are extremely rare and were produced principally in 1899 and 1900. They are marked by their fine grain structure, sharp resolution and russety sepia tone. Of the few examples that exist, the majority are approximately 12” x 16”. Curtis also created a large body of cyanotypes (blue-hued, printing-out process prints). These were made in the field contemporaneously with the creation of negatives and, presumably, virtually all of his 40,000-plus negatives were initially printed as cyanotypes; however, few of these survive. Additionally, Curtis created an extremely small body of hand-colored gelatin silver and platinum photographs using watercolor and oils, as well as experimental prints that appear to employ a gum process and/or ink. A small body of Curtis’ lantern slides still exist, some hand-colored. Lastly, Curtis created blue-toned gelatin silver prints (Aphrodite series, Hollywood stills, etc.); these should not be confused with his cyanotypes.
“Patrons’ Form of Subscription” for The North American Indian
Vintage â€œCurtis Indiansâ€? Marketing Booklet
Original Curtis Copyright Application
Title Page from The North American Indian, Volume I
Reproduction courtesy of Christopher Cardozo, Inc.
Subscription Agreement for The North American Indian February 10, 1909
An original copyright notice sticker used by Edward Curtis on his original photographs.
Vintage Curtis Studio Sticker, Applied to backing of his original Goldtones
EDWARD S. CURTIS Edward Curtis was born in 1868 and grew up in abject poverty in rural Minnesota. He built his first camera at age twelve and thus unwittingly embarked on his lifelong photographic career. In 1887, Curtis moved to the Pacific Northwest where he quickly positioned himself as Seattle’s foremost studio photographer. This success gave him the freedom to pursue his love of the great outdoors and this activity brought him into contact with small groups of Native Americans who were still living somewhat traditional lives. These experiences led Curtis to begin, by 1900, an undertaking that would consume him for the next thirty years. This project was the creation of his magnum opus, The North American Indian, a twenty volume, twenty-portfolio set of handmade books. Each Set contains over 2,200 original photographs, plus extensive text, and transcriptions of language and music. It is difficult to overestimate the enormity of Curtis’s task. The project involved over one hundred artisans, translators, sales staff, logistical support, field assistants, accountants, etc. In today’s dollars it was an approximately $35,000,000 publishing project, unparalleled in American publishing history. While The North American Indian is an inestimable contribution to the worlds of art, photography, ethnography, and fine bookmaking, the project nearly killed Curtis. He lost his family, his money, and his health. By 1930 he was a broken man. While he lived out the rest of his life in obscurity, he left us with a sacred legacy that may endure for many centuries to come.
Edward S. Curtis, Self-Portrait, 1899
Edward Curtisâ€™ Seattle Portrait Studio, c. 1900
A portrait from Curtisâ€™ second professional studio, Curtis and Guptill, c. 1892
A portrait from Curtisâ€™ first professional studio, Rothi and Curtis, c. 1891
John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan, Lead patron of Curtis’ North American Indian Project
BEAUTY, HEART & SPIRIT The Sacred Legacy® Over one hundred years ago, the American photographer Edward S. Curtis set out on a monumental quest to make an unprecedented, comprehensive record of the North American Indian. During a thirty-year period he produced 40,000-50,000 photographs of Native peoples from over eighty different tribal groups. Curtis’ mission was to safeguard and preserve their ‘sacred legacy’ by creating a lasting record of their lives in photographs, film, sound, and text. This was a highly collaborative process and the Native people were active co-creators in preserving this record for future generations. It is estimated that over 10,000 Native people actively and generously contributed their time, experience and knowledge toward the creation of this Sacred Legacy®. Curtis was a witness and messenger as much as a co-creator. Today this work stands as a landmark in the history of photography, book publishing, ethnography, and the American West. Viewed in its entirety, Curtis’ work presents an historical record of enormous importance. Edward S. Curtis and his Native co-creators not only preserved for future generations a crucial part of American history, but also provided a powerful opportunity to understand many aspects of the American Indian experience. Perhaps the most important legacy of Curtis’ monumental accomplishment is the expression of an extraordinary and deeply felt empathy and understanding of the personal, emotional, and spiritual lives of the American Indian. The work’s core message is one of beauty, heart, and spirit. In these respects, this collaborative body of work is unique and unparalleled.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…who does actually strive to do the deeds…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” —President Theodore Roosevelt
Champion of The North American Indian Project, President Theodore Roosevelt. Photographed by Curtis, c. 1905.