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Edward Sheriff Curtis (American, 1868–1952)
LOT ID: 72976
Walvia ("Medicine Root") - Taos, ie. circa 1905

Photogravure, on tissue
13 х 9 in. (33.02 x 22.86 cm.)
Unsigned
Lot description
Original, vintage photogravure on tissue from The North American Indian.

Edward Sheriff Curtis
b. 1868 Whitewater, Wisconsin, d. 1952 Los Angeles, California
photographer
American

A poor reverend's son growing up in Minnesota farm country, the teenage Edward Curtis built his first camera from scratch. The Curtis family moved to the Washington territory, and around 1892 the newly married Curtis bought his first photographic studio in Seattle for 150 borrowed dollars. It quickly became the place to be photographed. He later settled in Los Angeles, where he operated photographic studios at various times on La Cienega Boulevard and in the Biltmore Hotel. As a friend of Hollywood producer Cecil B. DeMille, Curtis was commissioned to make film stills of some of DeMille's epics, including The Ten Commandments.

Curtis is best known, however, for his exhaustive photo-documentation of American Indians. Over a thirty-year period he produced The North American Indian, a twenty-volume survey of more than one hundred tribes with supplementary photogravure portfolios. At least two hundred sets were sold, each priced at the then-astronomical sum of three thousand to forty-five hundred dollars. Curtis intended to preserve the vanishing native cultures, but he actually constructed the portraits out of nostalgia for cultures long past; rather than being historically accurate, he often used wrongly attributed cultural artifacts and costumes as props. Nevertheless, Curtis succeeded in creating a powerful record of faces and locations that transcended the standard ethnographic catalogue.

In 1914 he also made a feature film, In the Land of the Head Hunters, based on the lives of the Kwakiutl, a Pacific Northwest Coast Native American tribe. [getty.edu]

The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis is one of the most significant and controversial representations of traditional American Indian culture ever produced. Issued in a limited edition from 1907-1930, the publication continues to exert a major influence on the image of Indians in popular culture. Curtis said he wanted to document "the old time Indian, his dress, his ceremonies, his life and manners." In over 2000 photogravure plates and narrative, Curtis portrayed the traditional customs and lifeways of eighty Indian tribes. The twenty volumes, each with an accompanying portfolio, are organized by tribes and culture areas encompassing the Great Plains, Great Basin, Plateau Region, Southwest, California, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. Featured here are all of the published photogravure images including over 1500 illustrations bound in the text volumes, along with over 700 portfolio plates.[loc.gov]
Walvia (Medicine Root) - Taos by Edward Sheriff Curtis
  • Walvia (Medicine Root) - Taos by Edward Sheriff Curtis
  • Walvia (Medicine Root) - Taos by Edward Sheriff Curtis
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