Edward Curtis | Vintage Volume Photogravure Offering

Christopher Cardozo Fine Art is excited to announce our new program for acquiring vintage prints. Throughout the summer we will offering curated selections of vintage volume photogravures from the holdings of the world’s leading Curtis expert and collector, Christopher Cardozo. Our extensive collection gives us access to a broad range of subject matter, and prints of exceptionally high quality and condition, with impeccable provenance.  In addition, the breadth of our archive allows us to be able to offer these prints at 70% of their appraised value, which will help further our goal of bringing Curtis’ work to the world.

As you may already know, Curtis is the renowned photographer/ethnographer who preserved for posterity a powerful visual record of the beauty, heart, and spirit of Native Americans and their way of life. Curtis’ artistry is widely recognized and he is now one of the most widely collected photographers in the history of the medium. 

These vintage photogravures richly represent the scope of Curtis’ magnum opus, The NorthAmerican Indian. With prints being offered from all 20 volumes, from an aspiring or established collector’s perspective, this is a rare opportunity to acquire an extremely broad range of images with the absolute confidence of print quality and condition.

Learn More About Curtis’ Volume Photogravures

Because they comprise approximately 98 percent of his extant vintage work, Curtis is known almost exclusively through his photogravure prints, commonly referred to as “gravures.” These hand-pulled photoengravings were produced by master engravers and printers in Boston primarily for inclusion in The North American Indian. 

Title: A Jicarilla
Date: 1904
Medium: Photogravure
Paper Type: Holland Van Gelder
Volume I, Facing Page 54
Paper Size: Approx. 12-1/2″ x 9-1/2″ (31.75cm x 24.13cm)
Image Size: Approx. 7-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ (19cm x 14cm)

Title: Mother and Child – Sioux
Date: 1905
Medium: Photogravure
Paper Type: Holland Van Gelder
Volume I, Facing Page 18
Paper Size: Approx. 12-1/2” x  9-1/2” (31.75cm x 24.13cm)
Image Size: Approx.  7-1/2” x 5-1/2” (19cm x 14cm)

Photogravure is essentially a marriage of photography and engraving wherein the photographic image is chemically etched into the surface of a copper-clad engraving plate. To make a photogravure, an interpositive, generated from the negative, is exposed and contact-printed onto a photosensitized engraving plate. After the exposed plate is developed out, it is placed in an acid etching bath. 

The acid etches microscopic depressions in the metal surface, with the shadow areas of the finished image etched most deeply into the plate. After the image has been etched into the plate, it is cleaned, and then coated with dark brown sepia ink. The inked plate is then placed in contact with a sheet of paper and run through a hand-operated press, where the high pressure transfers the ink to the printing paper.

Title: Navaho Medicine Man
Date: 1904
Medium: Photogravure
Paper Type: Holland Van Gelder
Volume I, Facing Page 86
Paper Size: Approx. 12-1/2” x  9-1/2” (31.75cm x 24.13cm)
Image Size: Approx.  7-1/2” x 5-1/2” (19cm x 14cm)

Title: “For Strength and Visions”
Date: 1908
Medium: Photogravure
Paper Type: Holland Van Gelder
Volume I, Facing Page 78
Paper Size: Approx. 12-1/2” x  9-1/2” (31.75cm x 24.13cm)
Image Size: Approx.  7-1/2” x 5-1/2” (19cm x 14cm)

Curtis used the photogravure process almost exclusively to produce the 2,234 images for his magnum opus The North American Indian project. In spite of its expense and difficulty, Curtis chose photogravure because it was one of the finest photographic printing processes available and well suited for inclusion in books and portfolios. The technique and artisanship of photogravure had reached a zenith by the early 1900s, and large numbers of prints could be made with very consistent results. The warm sepia tones and subtle, soft resolution of the photogravure process complemented Curtis’ imagery perfectly.