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“[Geronimo’s] name is fixed in American mythology, and will never be supplanted”

CURTIS, EDWARD S. Geronimo – Apache

No place, 1905, printed 1907

Photogravure on Japan vellum. 15 ⅜ x 10 ½ in. (image size). Title, Curtis copyright notice and date, printer’s credit, the title, plate number printed beneath the image. Fine.

This is a magnificent portrait of Geronimo by Edward Curtis, the foremost photographer of American Indians.

Geronimo (c.1823-1909) was for decades one of the great Apache war leaders. He was “one of the last Indians to surrender to the United States. … His name is fixed in American mythology, and will never be supplanted, nor has interest in him diminished” (ANB).

“This portrait of the historical old Apache was made in March, 1905. … The picture was taken at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the day before the inauguration of President Roosevelt, Geronimo being one of the warriors who took part in the inaugural parade at Washington. He appreciated the honor of being one of those chosen for this occasion, and the catching of his features while the old warrior was in a retrospective mood was most fortunate” (Edward Curtis).

The Geronimo portrait is plate number 2 from Curtis’s celebrated The North American Indian, hailed as “the most gigantic undertaking in the making of books since the King James Bible” (New York Herald). Curtis’s lifelong project was inspired by his reflection that “The passing of every old man or woman means the passage of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rite possessed by no other; consequently, the information that is to be gathered, for the benefit of future generations, respecting the modes of life of one of the greatest races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time.”

Edward Curtis was one of the most important American artists of his day and the most important photographer of North American Indians. Over the course of thirty-five years, Curtis took tens of thousands of photographs of Indians from more than eighty tribes. “Never before have we seen the Indians of North America so close to the origins of their humanity, their sense of themselves in the world, their innate dignity and self-possession” (N. Scott Momaday).