Curtis' Technique ~ Goldtones: Full of Life and Sparkle

In his early years as a photographer, Curtis won widespread acclaim for his goldtone prints, referred to as "Curt-Tones." He achieved a distinctive iridescent effect by printing a reversed image on glass and backing it with a viscous mixture of powdered gold pigment and banana oil. Critics praised Curtis' goldtones over others' for their beautiful luminosity and stability of backing. Curtis experimented with similar effects using silver and platinum pigments.

"The Vanishing Race" (Navajo)
by Edward S. Curtis, 1904.
Goldtone print (in antique frame)

"We all know how beautiful are the stones and pebbles in the limpid brook of the forest where the water absorbs the blue of the sky and the green of the foliage. . . . In the Curt-Tones all the transparency is retained and they are as full of life and sparkle as an opal."
~ Advertising brochure for the Curtis Studio, date unknown

"The banana oil stunk to high heaven. On the days that I did the flowing, the German piano teacher in the basement got his students to pound on our floor because it smelled so awful."
~ Margaret Gaia, one of Curtis' studio assistants, 1984

[Silvertone print (unframed)]
"The Vanishing Race" (Navajo)
by Edward S. Curtis, 1904.
Silvertone print (unframed)

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~ The Curtis Family ~ Working on the Frontier ~ Gaining Support ~ A Life's Work ~ Early Books ~ Family Sacrifices
~ "The Man Who Never Took Time to Play" ~ Curtis' Technique ~ Alaska ~
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