Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beyond Success...

The very saddest aspect of the whole Edward S.Curtis legacy is not only that he died penniless, but that in the end, he did not even retain copyright of his own work. The work for which he struggled and  fought and worked himself ragged for (every single glass plate and photographic image of The North American Indian) was ultimately usurped by the multi-million dollar estate of J P Morgan's heirs. And although it was J P Morgan himself who was largely responsible for funding the work- Curtis never received a nickel in salary, every penny went to the creation of the work, and he operated mainly in an overwhelming, though thoroughly disguised, deficit.

And ever lovin' insult to injury- the heirs would then sell off the vast majority of his grand legacy (that cost millions to create even then, and was heralded far and wide as a major artistic achievement) to some Boston rare book dealer for the not so princely sum of (ya ready?)... $1,000!!! And some of the remaining work would then be ultimately thrown out with the trash.

Many an artist dreams of success, fame, and fortune; Curtis had all of it, he was literally the toast of the town- Seattle's home grown contribution to the great American success story!  And he gave it all up to produce art highlighting a segment of humanity that most of society actively sought to obliviate. His legacy endures because of a willingness that went beyond success.

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