Howard Terpning (born 1927) Find the Buffalo 36 x 32in (Painted in 1988.)

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Lot 41
Howard Terpning
(born 1927)
Find the Buffalo 36 x 32in

Sold for US$ 425,075 inc. premium
Howard Terpning (born 1927)
Find the Buffalo
signed and dated '© Terpning 1988 CA' (lower left), signed again and titled (on the backing)
oil on canvas
36 x 32in
Painted in 1988.


  • Exhibited
    Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Cowboy Artists of America 23rd Annual Sale & Exhibition, October 21 – November 20, 1988.
    Sedona, Sedona Arts Center Cowboy Artists of America: The 50-Year Roundup (A Commemorative Exhibition), July 18 - August 2, 2015.
    Corning, Rockwell Museum, The Art of Howard Terpning from The Eddie Basha Collection, June 24 – September 18, 2016.
    Cartersville, Booth Western Art Museum, Howard Terpning: 70 Years of Art, December 15, 2016 – March 26, 2017.

    Phoenix Art Museum, Cowboy Artists of America 23rd Annual Sale & Exhibition [exh. cat.], Flagstaff, Northland Press, 1988, n.p., full page color illustration.
    D. Dedera, Howard Terpning, The Storyteller: Paintings of the Native People of the West, Trumbull, The Greenwich Workshop, Inc., 1989, pp. 32, 166, color illustration.
    M. Clawson, "A Collector's Legacy," Western Art Collector, November 2015, Issue 99, p. 46, color illustration.
    J.D. Balestrieri, "Howard Terpning At The Rockwell Museum: The Story Behind The Storyteller," Antiques and The Arts Weekly, July 22, 2016, p. 11C, color illustration.

    According to the artist, 'There were times when the wandering buffalo herds could be found on the Southern plains. The Comanche Indians believed that if they asked the horned lizard to find the buffalo, he would always run in the direction of the buffalo. In this painting, two Comanche Scouts are intently watching a horned lizard to see which direction it will go, thus pointing the way towards the distant buffalo.'

    The mastery of Howard Terpning's technique is the appearance of effortless restraint – his paintings never appear overworked and the artist always gives us enough information to understand the image. Utilizing a restrained palette Find the Buffalo accomplishes the same trick with the narrative. Terpning relies on carefully allocated passages of crisp focus. The facial expressions of the two Comanche are incredibly precise while their quivers are only loosely defined. Likewise, the entire background and much of the rocks in the foreground have a deliberate looseness. At first glance the horned lizard is by no means prominent. Much like the movement of an animal that draws one's eye, it is the gaze of the Scouts and their steeds that takes the viewer to the camouflaged focus of their attention. Terpning paints the indifferent horned lizard with an economy of strokes in tan colors.

    In a detailed description of Terpning's technique, after the preliminary drawing the artist prepares a full-scale drawing on tracing paper. He applies a light gray chalk to the reverse and he then traces the composition onto a prepared canvas that has a thin wash of oil pigment in medium tones. The medium tones allow Terpning a wide degree of latitude with both light and dark as he works. "I like painting light on dark. It is much easier to establish the painting by starting with the medium tones, then you put down your lightest and your darkest colors. You have three values that quickly establish the form." 1 This technique is most apparent in Find the Buffalo in the rocks. Under close examination they are almost translucent. Their perceived solidity is crafted by the mauve and creamy yellow tones super imposed on the brown underpainting. The background in similar yellow tones to the rock is brighter with the sun above and behind the Scouts effectively halos them in light which funnels the eyes of the viewer to the center of the composition. Against this backdrop of browns and yellows the artist sprinkles a few tiny dots of bright blue in the form of beads near the right calf of the foremost Comanche. This contrasting spot sits at almost the exact center of the canvas – again centering the viewer. The only other place the color appears are some tiny hints of beadwork on the bow case of the foremost Scout and on the second scout's belt. The blue has even more impact due to the restrained tones of the rest of the painting. In Find the Buffalo the subtlety of tone and variable focus of the artist's technique convey the elongated moment of indecision. Terpning the storyteller invites us to experience the wait along with the Comanche Scouts to see which way the horned lizard will go.

    1 E. Kelton, The Art of Howard Terpning, New York, Bantam, 1992, p. 158.
Howard Terpning (born 1927) Find the Buffalo 36 x 32in (Painted in 1988.)
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