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CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence
The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of the Olympic Posters
The Case of the Olympic Posters

The Case of the Solitary Surrealist
The Case of the Solitary Surrealist

The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity
The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys
The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard
The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910
The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of the Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2

The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light
The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light

The Case of Leni and the Nuba
The Case of Leni and the Nuba

The Case of the Seductive Souvenir
The Case of the Seductive Souvenir

The Case of the Irish Surrealist
The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The Case of the Developing Dalí
The Case of the Developing Dalí

The Case of Nano-D Technology
The Case of Nano-D Technology

The Case of Dabatable Donations
The Case of Debatable Donations

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of the Long-tailed Monkey

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of Edgar Heap of Birds

Silent Song
The Case of the Silent Song

Aficionado
The Case of Alex and the Art Aficionado

Portrait
The Case of the Privacy of the Publicity Photo

Potter
The Case of the Potter's Portraits

The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

The Case of the Political Portraitist

The Case of the Reconsidered Revolution

The Case of the Anabiotic Abbey

The Case of the Phoney Picasso

The Case of Setsuko Piroche

The Case of being on the Forest Edge with Vern Simpson

The Case of Being at the End of the Storm with Loren Adams

The Case of Being: Under the Table with Thomas

The Case of Wyland's Whales on Walls

The Case of A.Y. Jackson's Smart River (Alaska)

The Case of Red Fish with Blue Breasts

The Case of Looe Poole

The Case of Camaldoli

The Case of MS

The Case of the Misattributed Emily Carrs

The Case of the Doubtful Dürer

The Case of the Purloined Picasso

The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

The Case of the First Wife

The Case of the Dodford Priory

The Case of the Unknown Actor

Art Services & Materials


Confessions Back

Practical Art History
(or Confessions of a Fine Art Appraiser)

by Jim Finlay
Finlay Fine Art
jim_finlay@telus.net

Chapter 32. The Case of the Wisham Fisherman

My client had told me that one evening while watching the Antiques Roadshow on television, he and his wife were surprised and excited to see a framed photograph which looked almost identical to the one they had inherited and which they were about to donate to the local thrift store. On hearing the estimated value, my client decided not to donate but to engage the services of a professional art appraiser.

Edward S. Curtis, The Fisherman

Edward S. Curtis, The Fisherman, Wisham (c. 1904-1909), goldtone on glass

Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952) photographed and documented the traditional way of life of the North American Indian and took some 40,000 photographs of over 80 tribes; images which he later published in a limited edition 20-volume set from 1917 to 1930.

Curtis visited the Northwest Coast of BC where he developed a somewhat dubious reputation of embellishing the truth by artificially staging some of his photographs of native subjects to make them appear more “real”.

According to text by Gloria Jean Frank, he reportedly is said to have had all of the male (native) actors in his 1914 film, In the Land of the Headhunters, shave off their moustaches for fear that audiences would not see them as authentic “Indians”. Word has it that he became so frustrated with his Kwakwaka’wakw actors for not performing one scene properly that he actually dressed up in costume and performed the scene himself.

This photograph, entitled The Fisherman, Wisham, dates from about 1904-1909 and depicts a salmon fisherman who most probably lived along the banks of the Columbia River near The Dalles, Oregon.

The image is a goldtone or orotone (also named by Curtis as a Curt-tone) photograph and is signed “E. Curtis” in the lower right of the image with a copyright symbol in the image at the lower left. The image measures approximately 8 ¥ 10 inches and was in the original batwing-cornered frame with the overall size including frame of 13.5 x 11.5 inches.

The image was reproduced in Volume VII of The North American Indian by Edward Curtis, and in Visions of a Vanishing Race by Curtis’s daughter, Florence Curtis Graybill, and Victor Boesen.

Curtis is known to have produced this image in several sizes; the most popular being 11 x 14. The printing process involved coating the back of a glass plate with a light-sensitive silver gelatin emulsion which then was exposed to a glass plate negative of the same image. The resultant positive image was fixed on the rear of the glass plate with a coating of banana oil impregnated with bronzing powder, thus giving it its gold colour. Other types of prints were made from the same negative such as gelatin silver prints on paper, however the most rare, due in part to their fragility, were the photographic prints on glass, of which this is a very good example.

This photograph is, therefore, one of many prints of the same image, printed in different sizes and on different materials. The frame would have been sold with the print directly from the factory. It is the smallest goldtone print of this series; others were sized 11 x 14, 11 x 17, and 18 x 22.

Needless to say my client was surprised to learn of the photograph’s significant appraised value and does not plan to donate it to a thrift store.

Next: Who’s Afraid of Historic Canadian Art?

 Wed, Jun 20, 2012