DescriptionLAVERNE NELSON BLACK (American 1887-1938)
Night Out in Taos (Taos Indian Night Watch), circa 1930
Oil on canvas board
16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
Signed lower right
Dorothy and William Harmsen, Sr. (Denver, Colorado);
Harmsen Museum of Art (Denver, Colorado)
Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Denver, Colorado, Harmsen Western Art Exhibit, 2000
Dorothy Harmsen, Harmsen's Western Americana (Flagstaff, Arizona: Norrthland Press, 1971), p. 25 (reproduced)
Laverne Nelson Black was born in Viola, Wisconsin. As a youngster he began to develop an interest in depicting western subjects--the result of his exposure to the Native American heritage of the Kickapoo River Valley where he grew up. He regularly associated with boys living on the local reservation. In his earliest pictures he used earth and vegetable colors as well as red keel, the soft stone native to the area that was often used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. In 1906, Black's family sold their hotel and restaurant business and moved to Chicago. Black attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for two years, and during his final year there was awarded a scholarship. Following art school, he pursued a career as a newspaper illustrator in Chicago, Minneapolis and New York. During the summer months he would travel to the west to sketch on ranches and reservations. He created painting and sculpture, and he appears to have had some success selling his bronze figures of Native Americans and cowboys.
In the late 1920s, health problems demanded Black move to a warmer and drier climate, and he settled with his wife and children in Taos, New Mexico. In 1937, he and his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he received a major commission from the Public Works Administration to paint six panels for the east lobby of the Phoenix Post Office. The series depicts the history of Arizona from the pioneer days through the modern era. In the spring of 1938, shortly after completing the project, Black died, apparently as a result of contracting a form of paint poisoning caused by the inadequate ventilation of his studio. A memorial exhibition of Black's work was organized in 1938 by the Arizona Society of Painters and Sculptors.
Night Out in Taos dates from approximately 1930. Soon after settling in Taos, Black set out to capture the picturesque character and distinctive light and color of the area. Many of his New Mexico works feature Native Americans in colorful garb standing in front of pueblo architecture, set against the dark ultramarine background of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Black liked setting the scene at twilight. He also frequently painted Native Americans performing ritual ceremonies or dressed in colorful blankets in a snowy landscape. Black's brushwork is broad and impressionistic, and he uses his palette knife to form large, loosely brushed, saturated blocks of color. In Night Out in Taos the artist captures exquisitely a glowing moment before the sun sets on the rustic terrain.
Minor paint loss to bottom-right and left margins, colors strong with nice impasto, no restorations
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