Mosa Mohave 16"x20"
SKU ID #292626
To Order by Phone Call 1-800-933-6249
Edward Sheriff Curtis is considered among the greatest documentarians of North American Indian life. His total respect for his subject matter, ambitious planning, technical quality, and the selection of his tribal subject matter insured the accuracy of his coverage as he photographed most of the Native American Indians west of the Mississippi.
Born in 1868 in Whitewater, Wisconsin, Curtis had constructed his own camera and been apprenticed as a photographer in St Paul by the age of 17. By 1892 Curtis had opened a portrait studio in Seattle and his work was recognized in 1899 when he won the grand prize for three of his works illustrating the Puget Sounds Native Americans. They were done in soft focus and sepia tones which were to become trademarks for his later works.
While working on Mt. Ranier in 1898, Curtis, by chance, provided trail guidance to a group of prominent scientists. Among them were George Bird Grinnell, editor of Field and Stream and a well known naturalist and writer on Plains Indians. He was immediately impressed with Curtis' work and invited him to photograph the Blackfeet Indian people in Montana two years later.
By 1904, Curtis' reputation was growing and he began to photograph other tribes in the West. In this time period Curtis finished his plan to document all tribes west of the Mississippi that were still living according to their traditional customs. His plan was ambitious as he wanted to record the fundamental aspects of daily tribal life and the environment in which it happened.
Curtis approached J.P. Morgan, the railroad tycoon, in 1906, in hopes of getting funding for his project. Morgan was responsive and agreed to provide him with $75,000, at $15,000 a year. He and Morgan decided that The North American Indian, would be a high quality set of 20 volumes of ethnographic text illustrated with high quality photoengravings. Morgan was to receive 25 sets and 500 photographs in return.
Curtis' life was completely taken up with creating the work and the unending marketing of the work. The project was very complicated by the logistics of travel and the variables of weather, timing, cooperation, and his available money.
Instead of the original 5 year schedule, it was not until 1930 that Curtis finished the 20th volume. By that time, interest in Native American history was waning and with the onset of the Great Depression, the money to purchase a full set was lacking. Less than 300 sets were sold and the company was liquidated in 1935. All of Curtis' glass plate negatives were left in the Morgan library and eventually sold or destroyed. Curtis died in 1952 virtually unrecognized for his efforts to create The North American Indian.
Curtis brought great genius to his project in spite of severe and ongoing hardships. As he intended, his greatest contribution was to allow the native beauty and character of his subjects to show through.