Project

An American Art: Edward S. Curtis and 'The North American Indian,' 1907-30

Program

Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art

Abstract

This dissertation offers a new, historically grounded analysis of Edward S. Curtis's 'The North American Indian,' a forty-volume set of photographs and writings published between 1907 and 1930. My study considers the significance of Curtis's project both as a work of photographic art and as an attempt to formulate and represent a specifically American cultural identity. I situate Curtis in relation to governmental policies affecting Native Americans and the development of American art in the 1910s and 1920s. I argue that Curtis's photographs present two distinct perceptions of Native Americans as part of a larger effort to construct and define an American culture, the first conception marked by Progressivism at the turn of the century and the second shaped by nativism in the 1920s.