EDWARD S. CURTIS FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION
The Three Chiefs – Piegan, 1900 Gold-Toned Printing-Out Paper Print (Also printed as a photogravure; Portfolio VI, Plate 209) This is historically the single most important of Curtis’ 40-50,000 photographic images. The photograph was made in the summer of 1900 and is the key image from that critical, watershed experience in Curtis’ life. It was made during a short field trip to Montana with noted ethnographer George Bird Grinnell where Curtis first encountered Native Americans whose culture was still largely intact. They also openly shared their religion, mythology, and personal lives with Curtis. This brief experience ignited Cutis’ passion to preserve a comprehensive record of Native American life. It is said that in making this image of three Great Plains tribal leaders in their traditional garb, that Curtis spent three days looking for the perfect combination of riders, sky, and prairie. PRINT BACKGROUND: This print is an extremely rare, gold-toned printing out paper print. Of Curtis’ extant vintage prints, it is estimated only about 1 in 10,000 exist in the extremely rare form, printed only during a brief two to three year period at the turn of the last century. This vintage gold-toned printing-out-paper print is in very good to excellent overall condition. It is mounted on contemporary board, which appears to be archival. Overall print quality very good to excellent and the original signature, in the negative, remains strong and crisp. The foreground and riders show a richness and detail that is absolutely unrivaled in Curtis’ oeuvre. This specific print is illustrated in the major Curtis monograph: Sacred Legacy; Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian. It was also a centerpiece in the groundbreaking exhibitions of the same name shown in Paris, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.
An Oasis in the Badlands, 1905 Vintage Vellum Photogravure from Portfolio III, Plate 80 This classic Curtis image was made in the heart of the renowned Badlands of South Dakota. The subject is Red Hawk, the Dakota leader who was born 1854. He participated in his first war party in 1865, with Crazy Horse, against U.S. army troops. He was a fierce warrior and ultimately engaged in 20 battles, including the Custer Battle in 1876. Red Hawk sits majesticly astride his white stallion, while it drinks from a small pool on a vast prairie in the Badlands. He wears a full war bonnet of eagle feathers, a beautifully beaded and fringed war-shirt, beaded leggings, and heavily beaded moccasins. He carries a carbine and his horse wears large eagle feathers both on its mane and forelock. The image and the subject project an unusual combination of strength and calmness in the dramatic, iconic landscape. This print is made in the photogravure photographic process, printed on hand-made Vellum etching stock. Photogravure was an expensive hand-printed process considered to be “the king of print processes”. This lyrical image is widely considered to be Curtis’ most important and beautiful Great Plains landscape. The compelling composition and subject matter still make this one of Curtis’ most sought-after images, more than one hundred years after it was made. PRINT BACKGROUND: This vintage, vellum, photogravure print is in very good overall condition and has a delicate, open, luminous quality. The four margins were trimmed, not effecting the image or plate impression. Excellent impression, and a fine example of the photogravure process. This photogravure was professionally washed and de-acidified to restore it to its original archival state and beauty. This print has an illustrious exhibition history: it was a highlight of the only Curtis exhibition ever held in Curtis’ birthplace (Whitewater, Wisconsin) as well as an award winning Curtis exhibition in Columbus, Ohio. PROVENANCE: This print also has exceptional provenance. It was originally owned by Karl Frederick Letsche, one of Curtis’ master printers. He carefully chose only the finest photogravures for his personal collection. This print stayed in the Letsche family until the 1990’s when it was acquired by Christopher Cardozo. A photograph of Letsche and a biographic sketch accompany this photogravure.
Medicine Crow – Apsaroke, 1908 Vintage Tissue Photogravure from Portfolio IV, Plate 117 “Medicine Crow” is a very stong, classic Northern Plains male portrait. Medicine Crow was a noted Apsaroke warrior from Montana. Curtis was particularly fond of the Apsaroke people as they had preserved the integrity of their culture and were fierce warriors and a proud people. The hawk fastened to Medicine Crow’s head is illustrative of the manner of wearing the symbol of one’s spirit guardian. The Apsaroke believed that all success in life was attributed to one’s spirit guardian and that spirit guides inhabited only the soul of a worthy persons. This original vintage photogravure is printed on handmade Japanese gampi (“tissue”) paper. This is the rarest and most expensive of the three original paper stocks chosen by Curtis and J.P. Morgan for Curtis’ North American Indian project. Only Morgan and a few others paid the substantial premium to get the rare tissue edition. Tissue prints are noted for their subtlety, luminosity, and strength. Gampi papermaking is a millennia old tradition in Japan and the art is often handed down within a family from generation to generation over hundreds of years. PRINT BACKGROUND: This vintage photogravure is in excellent condition. Watermark “Van Gelder Zonen Made in Holland” in left margin of vintage overmat. Excellent, rich impression, and a fine example of the photogravure process. This photogravure was professionally conserved (washed and de-acidified) to restore it to its original archival state and beauty.
“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…who does actually strive to do the deeds…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
Fair Market Valuation of Edward S. Curtis Photographs KEY FACTORS I. CORE DETERMINANTS OF VALUE 1. The artist 2. The image (aesthetic value and/or demand) 3. Print quality 4. Print condition 5. Size 6. Medium and/or process 7. Rarity II. SECONDARY FACTORS AFFECTING VALUE 1. Signature 2. Importance of collector or collection from which the print is coming. 3. Provenance 4. Exhibition history, if any 5. Publication history, if any 6. Importance of the image within artistâ€™s oeuvre 7. Presentation (on original mount, in original frame, etc.) 8. Broader photography and art markets 9. Bibliophile market 10. Event driven shifts (major, movie, book, etc.) 11. Paradigm shift (environmental movement, etc.) 12. Reputation or expertise of seller 13. Was the print made by artist? Under their supervision? Posthumous print? Etc. 14. Market maker(s) 15. Clear title 16. Currency/Exchange rates
PRICE LIST VINTAGE MASTER PRINT The Three Chiefs - Piegan, 1900
VINTAGE PHOTOGRAVURES An Oasis in the Badlands - Sioux, 1905 Medicine Crow - Apsaroke, 1908
“It’s such a big dream, I can’t see it all.” —Edward S. Curtis
Edward S. Curtis, Self-Portrait, 1899