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    Walter Ufer (American, 1876-1936)
    A Ride in Autumn
    Oil on canvas
    20 x 25 inches (50.8 x 63.5 cm)
    Signed lower right: W Ufer
    Signed and titled indistinctly on the stretcher: A Ride in Autumn by W Ufer

    Newhouse Gallery, New York;
    Private collection, Texas.

    When the 38-year-old painter Walter Ufer first arrived in Taos in 1914, he finally discovered the subject that would bring him national acclaim: the Pueblo Indian. In Taos, Ufer reconnected with his Académie Julian fellow students Ernest Blumenschein and Joseph Henry Sharp, two of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists that Ufer would officially join in 1917. Where Blumenschein specialized in the New Mexican landscape, and Sharp, in portraits of Indians in traditional ceremonial dress, Ufer focused on genre scenes of the modern-day Indian. His longtime affiliation with the Socialist Party made him especially attuned to opportunities for the laboring class, and, accordingly, his new art celebrated the Taos Indian at work. Ufer explained, "I paint the Indian as he is. In the garden digging--in the field working--riding among the sage--meeting his woman in the desert-angling for trout-in meditation. . . . I believe that if America gets a national art, it will come more from the Southwest. . . . We live a happy life here, with Indians daily at our table" (T. Smith, ed., A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings, Norman, Oklahoma, 2016, p. 151).

    Elevating women and men alike, Ufer's early paintings monumentalize women carrying pots of water, baking bread in outdoor adobe ovens, or guarding the entrance to the pueblo, and men, planting gardens, harvesting corn, saddling up for an excursion, or resting after a hot day in the sun. Borrowing from the realist, or "psychological," type of portraiture he had studied at the Munich Academy, Ufer has many of his subjects gaze directly at the viewer, extending an invitation into their everyday activities, or at least positioning themselves as equals. His concept for a new American art rested not on the stereotype of the Indians as a vanishing people, but rather on the reality of their contemporary experiences. He stated in an interview, "The Indian is not a fantastic figure. He resents being regarded as a curiosity--as a dingleberry on a tree. He is intelligent and a good businessman. He reads the good magazines and newspapers, and he is quick to challenge any false statement about himself or his life" (Smith, p. 147). Ufer's interpretation of the modern Indian garnered him numerous exhibition awards back East, and between 1916-26, major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., acquired his works for their collections.

    Ufer's numerous paintings of the Taos Indian Jim Mirabal, his favorite model and close friend, demonstrate his method of blending psychological realism and inventive design. As early as 1918, and throughout the 1920s, he depicted Jim with his signature chiseled face and long braids in a variety of guises as a gardener, musician, and transporter of goods, sometimes on horseback and frequently with his daughter. A Ride in Autumn exemplifies Ufer's portraits of Jim from the 1920s, which helped him achieve his vision for a national art. Ufer presents Jim as a contemporary Taos resident, dressed in store-bought boots, khaki pants, denim shirt, and cowboy hat, rather than as a stereotyped Indian in ceremonial garb. Jim engages the viewer directly with a serious look and from an elevated position on his chestnut horse, connoting his authority. Ufer offsets this intense psychological profile of Jim with the brilliant, sun-drenched setting. A master of design, he also contrasts the more monochromatic passages of Jim's clothing and the horse's coat with the intricately patterned screen of yellow aspens and the mottled, shadowed ground. In turn, the flattened bands of turquoise sky and cerulean Sangre de Christo Mountains in the background heighten the lacy effect of the aspens. Ufer's alla prima technique, creating a sensation of movement, is especially visible in the gestural, impastoed tree leaves. Together, the fluttering leaves, shifting shadows, and walking horse make the composition dynamic. While recalling a favorite subject of his friend and colleague E. Martin Hennings--Indians on horseback weaving in and out of aspen trees--Ufer's A Ride in Autumn is not idealized or universalized. Rather, true to his progressive philosophy, it employs a modernist idiom to capture a present-day American.

    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas; a few areas of very faint craquelure; surface is stable; work may benefit from a light cleaning; under UV light, there appears to be no inpaint. Framed Dimensions 24 X 29 X 2 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2016
    12th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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