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Edward S. Curtis “THE OATH” MASTER GOLDTONE PRINTING NEGATIVE


EDWARD S. CURTIS Master Goldtone Printing Negative


Master Goldtone Printing Negative Presentation Set


The Oath - Apsaroke, 1908 Original 8� x 6� printing master, Glass-plate Negative


THE OATH “The Oath” is one of Curtis is most well-known and iconic images. He used it in many ways that clearly shows its importance in his overall body of work. And to this day, it remains one of Curtis’s most recognizable images. The image was selected to be the Frontispiece for Volume IV (only 20 of the 1500 volume size prints were chosen to be a frontispiece – and only 20 of Curtis’s 40–50,000 negatives were so chosen). Curtis selected only about one in 800 of his negatives to be created in the goldtone process, and this is one of them. Further, Curtis used this image for special presentation pieces to give to major donors and prospective subscribers to his magnum opus, The North American Indian. The fact that he also created gelatin silver prints of this image and personally signed a number of the photogravure prints to be presented to patrons clearly shows that this image was among a pantheon of Curtis’s most important works. The large area of sky in the photograph helps create a most compelling goldtone. In this photograph the Apsaroke warrior, Picket Pin, takes an oath of truth and honor while two other warriors act as witnesses. The Oath requires the man to thrust an arrow through a piece of meat, place it upon a red-painted buffalo skull, raise it toward the sun and, if his words are true, touch the meat to his mouth. The ceremony was intended for use with difficult or controversial communications to help insure both the veracity and good intentions of the speaker.


“I like a man who attempts the impossible.” —J. P. Morgan

Contemporary Original Goldtone™ 17” x 14” Warm-toned gelatin silver emulsion on high quality optical glass with a backing of bronze and brass powders.


“The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other... Consequently the information that is to be gathered, for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once, or the opportunity will be lost for all time. ” —Edward S. Curtis

1. Contemporary Platinum Palladium Contact Print from Original 6 1/2” x 8 1/2” in-camera glass-plate negative. Hand-coated platinum and palladium emulsion on natural Arches Platine archival paper. (Shown on right)

2. 12” x 16” Contemporary Platinum Palladium Presentation Print from original Master Goldtone Printing Negative. Hand-coated platinum and palladium emulsion on natural Arches Platine archival paper. (Presentation Print included in the Negative Presentation Collection.)


“Some years ago I purchased a Curtis photograph of Plains Indians on horseback…I had not seen the photograph before. It struck me with such force that tears came to my eyes. I felt that I was looking into a memory in my blood… There is a quality to the image, the composition, the invisible plane beyond the surface of the scene that is ineffable. It is a quality that informs the greatest art, and it is the standard in the Curtis photographs…” —N. Scott Momaday

1. Contemporary Gelatin Silver Contact Print from original 6 1/2” x 8 1/2” in-camera glass-plate negative. Hand-coated gelatin and silver emulsion on Ilford Multigrade Fiber-based warmtone photographic paper. (Shown on right)

2. 9” x 12” Contemporary Silver Gelatin Presentation Print from original Master Goldtone Printing Negative. Hand-coated gelatin and silver emulsion on Ilford Multigrade Fiber-based warmtone photographic paper. (Presentation Print included in the Negative Presentation Collection.)


“Thank you for showing me my culture.”

— from the Beauty, Heart and Spirit Exhibition guestbook. Cargill Gallery, Minneapolis 2012

Contemporary Cyanotype Contact Print from original 6 1/2” x 8 1/2” in-camera glass-plate negative. Hand-coated cyanotype emulsion on Revere Platinum archival paper, 100% cotton


Medicine Crow - Apsaroke, 1908 Original 6 1/2� x 8 1/2� in-camera glass-plate negative


WHAT IS A MASTER GOLDTONE PRINTING NEGATIVE? Edward Curtis was a master of the photographic medium. For many, he is most revered for his beautiful goldtone photographs. These photographs are printed on glass and backed with a gold liquid wash. They possess a brilliance, hue and a three-dimensionality that is unique in the photographic medium. It is an expensive and time-consuming process and it is estimated that fewer than 1 in 500,000 vintage fine art photographs were ever made in this medium. Curtis created specific negatives to use in making his goldtones. They can be identified as such by the ink signature incorporated into the negative itself. (Negatives that Curtis used for creating other types of prints had no signature in the negative, as the print itself would be signed.) Curtis wrote eloquently about his love of the goldtone (“orotone” or “Curt-tone”) process and their extraordinary luminosity and three-dimensionality. Fewer than 1 in 800 of Curtis’ negatives were actually chosen to be used in creating goldtones, thus adding to their rarity and desirability. Curtis is recognized as both the pioneer and the master of the goldtone printing process, and there is nothing in the one hundred and seventy-year history of the photographic medium that compares to Curtis’ body of work in the goldtone process. Thus, the Goldtone Master Printing Negatives are exceedingly important not only in the overall history of Curtis’s body of work, but also in the 170-year history of the photographic medium.


THE APSAROKE In stature and in vigor the Apsaroke, or Crows, excelled all other tribes of the Rocky Mountain region, and were surpassed by none in bravery and in devotion to the supernatural forces that gave them strength against their enemies. Social laws, rigidly adhered to, prevented marriage of those even distantly related, and the hardships of their life as hunters eliminated infant weaklings. The rigors of this life made the woman as strong as the men. The country which the Apsaroke ranged and claimed as their own was an extensive one for so small a tribe. In area it may be compared, east and west, to the distance from Boston to Buffalo, and north to south , from Montreal to Washington--certainly a vast region to be dominated by a tribe never numbering more than fifteen hundred warriors. —Excerpt from The North American Indian

LEFT IMAGE: Medicine Crow - Apsaroke, 1908 Vintage Photogravure, Plate 117 RIGHT IMAGE: Apsaroke War Chief, 1908 Vintage Photogravure, Plate 112


Original Curtis Copyright Application

“Patrons’ Form of Subscription” for The North American Indian


Reproduction courtesy of Christopher Cardozo, Inc.

Letter from President Theodore Roosevelt to Edward Curtis, Used by Curtis to promote and solicit support for The North American Indian


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.


Reproduction courtesy of Christopher Cardozo, Inc.

Subscription Agreement for The North American Indian February 10, 1909


EDWARD CURTIS

“It’s such a big dream, I can’t see it all.” –Edward 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


MASTER GOLDTONE PRINTING NEGATIVES Illustrated are the five Master Goldtone Printing Negatives being offered, shown as finished Goldtones™.

Prayer to the Great Mystery, 1908

The Oath - Apsaroke, 1908


Old Well at Acoma, 1904

A Son of the Desert - Navaho, 1904

Wisham Fisherman, 1909



Master Goldtone Printing Negative