The photogravure is a photochemical printmaking process invented in 1879. The photogravure print is a combination of photography and engraving, where the photographic image is chemically etched into the surface of a copper printing plate. After it is etched, the plate is cleaned, inked, and printed by hand, one at a time.

The process is rarely used today due to the costs involved, but it produces prints, which have the subtlety of a photograph and the art quality of a lithograph.

Edward Curtis chose the photogravure because it was one of the finest photographic printing processes available.

The technique and artisanship had reached their zenith by the early 1900s and was the chosen medium of many early art photographers such as Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz. Large numbers of prints could be made with very consistent results, making photogravure the ideal medium for his project, “The North American Indian.”

Curtis selected three of the finest hand made papers of the day on which to print the photogravures; a Japanese vellum, a Dutch etching stock called Holland Van Gelder, and a fine Japanese Tissue paper.

There are 124 pieces of artwork in this category on 31 pages. Click to view them.