Goldtones
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Edward S. Curtis perfected the medium and refined the technique known as the Goldtone Print or Orotone Print to the extent that he is now considered the greatest master of the process. He would eventually go on to name these prints after himself calling them "Curt-Tones" and the Goldtone Print went on to become a hallmark of the Curtis Studio.

Even though Curtis pioneered and popularized this rarely used medium just after 1900, he printed less than one of every thousand of his negatives in this expensive and difficult process.

The goldtone process is relatively simple to describe—the photograph is printed directly on glass instead of paper, and then backed with a gold liquid wash or spray—but in practice it is very difficult to produce high-quality Goldtone images.

The fact that the emulsion is suspended on and supported by glass, rather than paper, creates a variety of limitations and difficulties. The emulsion could either be too dark or too light, imperfections were endemic on the difficult to control pored emulsion coatings, fingerprints were often evident on the emulsion, and the list can become endless.

The Goldtone process itself was so incredibly intricate and so difficult to control that only 15% of the Goldtones produced by Curtis are considered flawless.

The process Curtis used was created by taking a clear plate of optical glass and spread a liquid emulsion onto the surface of the plate. Curtis then projected his negative onto the glass to create a positive image.

The highlights and shadows could not be seen unless there was some type of backing on the image. He mixed a combination of banana oils and bronzing powders to create a goldtone effect, and then spread this mixture onto the dried emulsion.

The final process involved backing the glass image to so that all the chemicals bonded together. The brilliance of the gold reflecting through the glass gave the Goldtone a truly three-dimensional quality with an aura unmatched by any other photographic process.

The framing of the Goldtone was the final element of the completed piece, which was also necessary in order to crate and ship the finished photographic work.

When viewed next to a paper print, the Goldtone print has a three-dimensional quality that transcends our normal perception of a photograph.


There are 36 pieces of artwork in this category on 9 pages. Click to view them.