Native American Legacy Preserved in Art Before Loss Rosemary McKittrick’s website LiveAuctionTalk.com keeps readers up-to-date weekly on what’s happening at auction. Sign up for a free weekly subscription.
News-Antique.com - Jun 30,2008 - June 30, 2008 --Albert Bierstadt encouraged Henry Farny to travel west and capture Native Americans and their vanishing way of life on canvas. That’s exactly what Farny did in 1881 when he headed for the Dakota Territory.
In the early-19th century, national leaders predicted it would take 500 years to settle the West. By the 1890s, most of the expansion was over.
Americans saw the West as boundless new living space. The land offered room to move, rich soil and a better way of life for the taking.
Railway lines began to stretch across the prairie. Farms and towns shot up everywhere. The open lands where the Native Americans once hunted Buffalo were fenced off. Only a few of the country’s bison remained.
The Old West had not vanished overnight but it sure seemed that way. The cost was the destruction of a way of life for Native Americans.
It was painters like Farny who saw what rapid settlement ultimately meant. It was painters like Farny who helped keep the Native American way of life alive--at least on canvas.
His renderings of Native Americans were subtle, compassionate and intelligent. His eyewitness accounts reveal an artist’s understanding of his subject’s dilemma--even though he never actually spent more than a few months out West.
On April 5, Cowan’s in Cincinnati, Ohio, featured two Farny paintings in its American Indian and Western Art Auction.
A watercolor and gouache on paper “Winter Encampment of the Crow Indians”; signed and dated 1882; strikingly similar in subject to Farny’s “Toilers of the Plains”; showing Northern Plains Indians’ daily life; 12 ¾ inches by 27 ¼ inches; sold for $285,000.
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