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Edward S. Curtis

The Vanishing Race, Navaho 1904

Curtis was born in 1868 in Whitewater, Wisconsin.
He lived and worked in Seattle, Washington.
He died in 1952.

Known for:
Best known for The North American Indians project. Curtis photographically documented over 80 North American Indian tribes. The project, published between 1904 and 1928, was comprised of twenty book volumes and twenty portfolios.

Most Popular Images:
The Vanishing Race
Chief Joseph
Waiting in the Forest
Three Chiefs
Chief of the Desert

Did you know ... ?
• Edward S. Curtis had a portrait studio in Seattle in the 1890s. Curtis' brother Asahel kept the Curtis Studio open in Seattle after Edward began the North American Indians project around 1901. After he finished the project in 1927, he suffered a mental and physical breakdown and moved to Denver to recuperate.
• After 1930, Curtis only produced a handful of new photographs. Usually in the original, blue Curtis Studio frames, these photographs included blue-toned silver gelatin 8" x 10" or 11" x 14" images of actors from Ben Hur and Tarzan, and three nudes: Aphrodite, Sunset Trail, and Castle of Dreams.

"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."

General Format:
• Photogravures in volume plate (5" x 7") or portfolio (14" x 18") size, all unsigned, stamped with Edward S. Curtis copyright stamp and negative date.
• Orotones (printed on glass and backed in gold) of selected images in 8" x 10" and 11" x 14" sizes, usually in Curtis Studio frames; 14" x 17" and 16" x 20" sizes exist, but are rare.
• Platinum and silver gelatin ("border prints") in 5" x 7", 8" x 10", and some larger sizes, usually signed in ink.

How many photographs exist?
The original edition of 500 for the North American Indians project was never completed, but 291 sets were created. Over 200 sets remain in library or museum collections. Orotones, platinums and silver gelatin prints are rarer (50 to 150 of each).

Prices on individual portfolios, each containing 36 - 39 different photogravures, range from $10,000 to $175,000. Each portfolio is devoted to a different group of North American Indian tribes. The entire set of twenty portfolios and twenty volumes, when available, is $675,00 - $750,000. Ondividual photogravures range from $100. to $35,000.

View Edward S. Curtis Photographs

How are the photographs printed and signed?
The Curtis photogravures were printed by John Andrew & Son and Suffolk Engraving Co. The majority of Curtis' work is unsigned, although silver gelatin and platinum ("border prints") are signed. Orotones in original Curtis frames are signed in the negative.

All of Curtis' original photographs are considered to be vintage, which means that the print date is at or near the same time as the negative date.

Technical Information:
Photogravure is an advanced ink on paper process from a photo sensitive copper plate. Orotone, platinum, and silver gelatin are darkroom processes.


Books - In Print (order yours now!):
The North American Indians: The Complete Portfolios
Edward S. Curtis
Sites and Structures: The Architectural Photographs of Edward S. Curtis
Native Nations
Curtis Video Sold Out

A Gallery for Fine Photography has one of the largest selections of individual plates, entire portfolios, volumes, orotones, and "border" prints by Edward Sheriff Curtis in the world.

Price History:
1976: $50,000 full set; $25-$500 individual photogravures
1986: $125,000 full set; $100-$5,000 individual photogravures
1996: $660,000 full set; $100-$7,500 individual photogravures 2000: $100-$12,500 individual photogravures; orotones $2,500 - $20,000

2015: $2000,000- $3000,000 full set; $500-$35,000 individual photogravures; orotones.

Authenticity is guaranteed. Prices and availability are subject to change without prior notice.


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