The legacy of Edward Sheriff
Curtis is a collection of photographic documentation at once historically heroic and
artistically important. Recording what he then erroneously thought was a Vanishing
Race, Curtis did record a passing time that would never return. The Copper
photogravure plates and the resulting photogravures represent the life work of Edward S.
Curtis and his heroic effort to document North American Indians. These photogravures are
both an historic documentation of Native American life ways and priceless artifacts.
Edward Sherrif Curtis photographed all of the
major Native American Tribes west of the Mississippi. He funded this momentous work
with several large grants from J.P. Morgan, beginning in the late 1880s with the last
printing culminating during the Great Depression. His goal was to document "The
Vanishing Race," that is, as Native peoples were prior to the many tragic
developments that eventually cost Native Americans their precious homelands. "The
North American Indian" consisted of 20 volumes of photogravures and text, documenting
Native American customs, including interviews with many Native Americans who describe in
their own words the heritage of
their tribes. Each volume was accompanied by a portfolio of large Photogravures, relating
to the tribes depicted in the volumes. There are 1510 volume (18"x 24") size and
722 portfolio size (11"x 14") photogravure plates in the entire
The method Curtis chose
to employ, using copper photogravure plates, are produced utilizing the process of etching
glass photographic positives, onto copper plates.
Like the vintage photogravures Curtis had printed from his plates, all of our photogravure
restrike prints are hand made, utilizing Curtis' original copper plate and a Brand press.
Archival papers, similar in character, but different than the papers selected by Curtis,
are used for printing. In order to produce a single photogravure print, the plate must be
hand wiped with sepia inks. All excess ink must be removed from the plate. The image from
the plate is forced onto the paper by the hand press, capturing all of the etched details
on the plate. Each print is unique! There are no mechanized processes in photogravure
printing. Only twenty images can be done in a typical working day, with one master printer
and one press. All of the current printings are done for Art+Works Too by Deli
the most skilled gravure printer still working with this process.
Gravure printing is rare
today. However, it is still the most accurate technique for capturing all the
details of these historic photographs. The new gravures have significant value as a master
craft item. It is the intention of Art+Works Too to bring these gravures at affordable
prices to purchasers who both appreciate this type of craftsmanship, and the historical
nature of the subject matter.
Gravure printing is rare in todays
society! However, it is still the most accurate technique for capturing all of the details
of vintage photographs.