Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)

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Edward S. Curtis - Vanishing Race - Navaho border=
Title:
Vanishing Race - Navaho
Date:
1904
Size:
5 3/4 x 7 1/2 inches
Medium:
Vintage silver gelatin border print
Signed:
L/R
 
Silver Prints

Despite the fact that silver printing was the most popular photographic printing process of the past century, Curtis printed in it rarely. Nevertheless, his silver prints demonstrate the refinement of his other master exhibition prints.

Curtis’ other master exhibition printing processes were contact printing processes—that is, a negative needed to be placed in direct contact with the photographic paper during printing. Curtis worked with glass-plate negatives, and the size of the finished pieces was directly limited by the size of the negative. However, in silver printing, the paper could be developed from a negative in an enlarger—a device though which the image was projected onto the paper. Curtis realized the potential of the process, and printed several immense pieces, some three feet in length. These monumental prints are extremely rare.

Edward S. Curtis was a photographer and printer of stunning technical virtuosity. He printed a small body of his earliest and finest negatives in platinum, printing out prints, and silver processes specifically for personal exhibitions and sale to elite patrons. In these master exhibition prints, Curtis’ technical virtuosity is hallmarked by tremendous subtlety, delicacy, and richness. They are his greatest images executed in the most dramatic, challenging processes of photographic expression.

Today, master exhibition photographs comprise substantially less than one percent of Curtis’ extant work. These seminal pieces embody the impetus of the project and the genius of the artist himself. These rare, haunting photographs are unparalleled as permanent documents of Native American life. In all respects they are the masterpieces of Curtis’ lifetime.
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