This is an unpublished Edward Curtis signed photograph of an Apsaroke Indian Chief in a gold-leaf frame. It is an attractive piece from America's most prolific western photographer.
Edward S. Curtis created one of the most enduring and iconic visual records in the history of the photographic medium, a record that has informed our vision of who we are and where we came from. The images he created during his extraordinary 30-year odyssey have touched viewers throughout the world.
Today he is believed to be the world’s most collected and exhibited fine art photographer. Over 1000 books, reviews, and articles have been written about Curtis and/or illustrated by his photographs, and his work has been exhibited in venues in over 40 countries. He was an award-winning artist, a consummate craftsman, a visionary, an intrepid entrepreneur, and was highly regarded as a respected ethnographer and publisher.
Edward S. Curtis began photographing Native Americans in the mid- 1890s and selling these images in his successful downtown Seattle studio. His first photographic subjects were local Native Americans digging for clams and mussels on the tide flats. One of his earliest models was Princess Angeline, the aged daughter of chief Sealth, the Suquamish Indian after whom Seattle is named. At the National Photographic Convention of 1899 Curtis was awarded the grand prize for three of his soft-focused, sepia-toned images of Puget Sound Native Americans: Evening on the Sound, The Clam Digger, and The Mussel Gatherer.
Curtis spent the summer of 1900 with George Bird Grinnell observing the Sun Dance at an encampment of Blood, Blackfeet and Algonquin in Montana. This was an exciting and pivotal experience for Curtis, increasing his interest in Native-American cultures and confirming his desire to continue the study and photographic documentation of the Native tribes of North America. A trip to visit the Hopi reservation in Arizona a few months later further fueled his enthusiasm and drive.
In 1904, encouraged by the popularity of his Indian images, Curtis began in earnest to photograph other tribes throughout the West. He hired Adolph Muhr to manage his darkroom in Seattle and began to spend more and more time in the field. By now Curtis had envisioned a plan to document all of the tribes west of the Mississippi that still maintained to a certain degree their native customs. Curtis agreed with the common scholarly opinion of the day that very soon all Native American cultures would be absorbed into white society and entirely disappear. He wanted to create a scholarly and artistic work that would catalog the ceremonies, beliefs, daily life and landscapes of this "vanishing race." In that same year Curtis traveled to the East Coast to discuss his ideas with Frederick Webb Hodge and William Henry Holmes of the Smithsonian's Bureau of American Ethnology. Mr. Hodge would become a lifelong friend to Curtis as well as editor of the entire North American Indian project.
In 1906 Curtis approached railroad tycoon J.P. Morgan to request financial assistance for his project. Morgan agreed to pay him a total of $75,000, or $15,000 a year for five years. Morgan and Curtis decided that Curtis' masterwork, The North American Indian, would be a set of 20 volumes of ethnographic text illustrated with high quality photoengravings taken from his glass plate negatives. Each of these volumes would be accompanied by a portfolio of large size images, all sumptuously bound in Moroccan leather. The papers used for printing would also be of the best quality: a Dutch etching stock by Van Gelder, a Japanese vellum, and for the most discerning subscribers, a translucent Japanese tissue paper. To fund publication, Curtis would sell subscriptions at approximately $3,000 per set, with a total of 500 sets to be published.
An extremely extensive project, Curtis spent much of his life documenting as many Native tribes as possible. In 1930, some 24 years after his initial request for funding, the last volumes, 19 and 20, were published and The North American Indian project was finally complete.
His work changed the way an entire nation viewed Native Americans. He accomplished this at a time when some individuals were actively advocating for the relocation of numerous tribes. His images have also moved and inspired extraordinarily broad and diverse audiences, transcending economic, cultural, social, educational, and national boundaries. Curtis co-created this unparalleled artistic, anthropological record with an estimated 10,000 Native participants. Today many Native people and their tribes find Curtis’ work an invaluable source for cultural and linguistic revivification.
Framed Size: 24.5" H x 21" W x 2" D