Southern Plains Indian warrior, 1894 signed and dated 'Farny 94' (lower right) gouache on paper 16 x 11in overall: 22 x 17in
PROVENANCE: Property of a private collector
Henry Farny, like many great American artists trained in Europe. Despite this training he was consumed with depicting the American Indian and documenting Indian culture. He made several trips to the West from his home base of Cincinnati. These travels gave Farny firsthand knowledge of the Indians, the reservations and their way of life. Farny would document, photograph and later paint the Indians, especially of the Plains. In 1881 a reporter wrote: At present Farny gazes on his photographs of Indians, he draws Indians, he paints Indians, he sleeps with an Indian tomahawk near him, he lays greatest store by his Indian necklaces and Indian pipes, he talks Indian and he dreams of Indian warfare. Farny respected the story of the Indian and their unique way of life. He devoted almost his entire painting career to documenting their vanishing culture. Farny described, with uncanny detail, a nostalgic image of an exotic land and people.
Farny's paintings in oil and gouache incorporated some of the more advanced ideas of late nineteenth century art, and revealed the influence of his studies and travels abroad. He adapted the unusual compositional devices seen in Japanese prints, which were so popular in Europe at the time. He used photographs as sources of information for his detailed landscapes. And for the backgrounds of many of his paintings, he chose the lighter palette characteristic of the Impressionists. Farny's sophisticated artistic vocabulary, his mastery of painting, his sympathetic understanding of the Indians, and his ability to capture the color, details and atmosphere of the dramatic Western terrain, all won him great praise and popularity in his day. Even though his popularity waned and he was overshadowed by his better known contemporaries: Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, Farny, today is widely acknowledged as a fellow giant in Western Art.
Southern Plains Indian warrior is a classic composition for Farny. He often chose to capture his sitters as isolated figures, focusing our attention on their quiet grandeur and stoic poise. The lavender background was a popular color that Farny used frequently in his gouaches. This impressionistic palette demonstrates his acute sense of the color and beauty of the Western landscape. Additionally we see in this work Farny taking great pain to make sure that headdresses, breastplates and other decorative details were painted with identifiable accuracy.