Portfolio XV, Plate 521
Paper Size: 18" x 22" (45.72cm x 55.88cm)
Image Size: 15.5" x 11.75" (39.4cm x 29.8cm)
The gallery retail for this photograph is $3,250.
Auction Estimate: $2,000-$2,500
This original photogravure is in excellent condition. Ink stamp, "Bangor Public Library Bangor, Maine" on mount verso. Watermark, "VAN GELDER ZONEN MADE IN HOLLAND", at lower margin of overmat. Excellent ink impression.
This original vintage photogravure is printed on Japanese Gampi (“tissue”). This is the rarest and most expensive of the three original etching stocks used by Curtis. Only J.P. Morgan and a few others paid the substantial premium to get the tissue edition. Tissue is noted for its subtlety, luminosity, and strength. This print has been professionally washed and de-acidified (a $300-$350 value) and will last for several hundred years, or more, if properly cared for.
"I like a man who attempts the impossible.” – J.P. Morgan
In 1900, Edward S. Curtis set out to document the history, spirituality, and culture of all intact Native American tribal groups. Curtis understood the urgency of his mission, as the Native American culture and way of life was rapidly disappearing. Before his project was completed in 1930,
Curtis had lost his money, his family, and his health in his single-minded devotion to completing his study which today still stands as a landmark in American publishing history.
In the end, each set of Curtis’ magnum opus, The North American Indian, contained more than 2,200 photographs and over 4,000 pages of written text. The North American Indian cost a staggering $37,000,000 to publish (in today’s dollars) and the resulting body of work is unequalled in the history of photography, publishing or ethnography. Curtis also, produced and directed a full-length feature film, lectured and exhibited extensively and made 10,000 Edison wax cylinder recordings of native songs, languages, and tribal histories.
Although he was championed by President Theodore Roosevelt and supported by J.P. Morgan, Curtis was largely forgotten by the time he finished the project. Today he has become one of the most widely published, exhibited, and collected photographers in the history of the medium. In the last five years alone his work has been the subject of over one hundred one-person exhibitions in over forty-five countries and on every continent but Antarctica. Curtis prints can be found in over one thousand public and private collections, including The Getty, MOMA, and The Met. Important private collections include those of Oprah Winfrey and George Lucas. Individual Curtis prints have sold for over $100,000 both at auction and privately and many prints now sell in the $10,000-50,000 range. Complete sets of The North American Indian can now bring $2,000,000 and above.
Portfolio XV, Plate 521