DescriptionFRANK MCCARTHY (American, 1924-2002)
By the Snow Moon, 1978
Oil on canvas laid on board
24 x 36 inches (61.0 x 91.4 cm)
Signed lower right: McCarthy CA 1978
Inscribed verso: "By the Snow Moon" / Frank McCarthy
Gilcrease Rendez-Vous, Tulsa (1984).
Kelton, Elmer. Frank McCarthy: The Old West (Greenwich Press Ltd: Trumbull, CT) 1981, p 88-89 (illus).
A native of New York City, Frank McCarthy's fascination with the American West began with an assignment to produce a western image for a book cover. At the time, McCarthy was a successful illustrator whose works had appeared in such leading publications as Collier's, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Outdoor Life, and American Magazine. In addition he was frequently asked to provide illustrations for the leading book publishers of the day and for most of the major movie studios. He had attained status and as of the leading American illustrators at a relatively early age. His first western illustration assignment came in 1950 when he was only 26. He studied at the Art Students League as well as the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and had trained under the tutelage of Reginald Marsh. While his career as an illustrator led him to research a wide variety of historic periods and subjects, he often returned to western subject s and by 1968, he was ready to make the transition from painting for magazines, books, and the movie studios, to a full time pursuit of painting western canvases for gallery representation.
He quickly established his reputation as one of the top western painters in the country and was eventually inducted into the Cowboy Artists of America. He moved to Sedona, Arizona in 1974 and remained there until his death in 2002. Throughout his career as a western artist, McCarthy depicted several historical eras and subjects, but his greatest affinity perhaps was for the native cultures of the American West. Although his easel paintings, need not be tied to a specific incident in western American history, he frequently used his research into that subject as the basis for his art. The scenes that he painted sprang from his imagination, but they were grounded in his reading of history and often are based on well documented events. One such event is depicted in By the Snow Moon, a haunting winter nocturnal that shows a band of Cheyenne warriors moving across a snow covered mountainous landscape. The warriors are moving across the canvas from left to right leading the viewer's eye toward a trackless expanse. It is a beautiful, yet desolate scene, rich in detail, skillfully painted, evoking a sense of both the severity of the winter weather and the mystery of what lies ahead for this band. McCarthy based the painting on the 1878 attempt by a group of Cheyenne under the leadership of Little Wolf and Dull Knife to flee the confines of Fort Reno in present day Oklahoma. Both leaders had participated in the Battle of Little Big Horn that resulted in the death of General George Custer and his entire command. A year later their followers were captured and confined to a reservation far from their homeland. Their hope was to return to their hunting grounds in the Northern plains but almost all of the three hundred men, women, and children were eventually caught or killed. McCarthy used this tragic story to create a timeless scene pitting his subjects against a harsh winter environment. His fidelity to historical accuracy is evident in the many authentic details of dress and other items. Beyond this authenticity, however, is McCarthy's ability to impart to the viewer a sense of the environment and the determination of his subjects to return home.
McCarthy's works are found in many private and public collections and his work has been featured in museums such as the Gilcrease in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
This lot is accompanied by a limited edition copy of the book Frank McCarthy: the Old West signed by the artist.
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