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    Description

    Walter Ufer (American, 1876-1936)
    At Ease, 1926
    Oil on canvas laid on board
    10-5/8 x 12-1/4 inches (27.0 x 31.1 cm)
    Signed lower right: W. Ufer
    Signed and titled on the reverse: At Ease / W. Ufer

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Walter Louis Cohrs, acquired from the above, 1926;
    Virginia Cohrs White, by bequest from the above, 1977;
    Private collection, Desoto, Texas, by bequest from the above, 2013.

    EXHIBITED:
    [possibly]Georgian Hotel, Evanston, Illinois, December 6, 1926.

    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. At Ease,1926 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 denim pants and a red buttoned up shirt and tie, rather than as a stereotyped Indian in ceremonial garb. Jim engages the viewer with a direct gaze and casual posture upon his chestnut horse. Ufer offsets this intense psychological profile of Jim with the brilliant, sun-drenched setting of sagebrush. A master of design, he uses a bright red pigment to direct the viewer's attention to the focal point, Jim, set against the peaceful backdrop of his native land. True to Ufer's progressive philosophy, At Ease, 1926 employs a modernist idiom to capture a present-day American.

    Two letters by the artist to Walter Louis Cohrs, dated December 1926, as well as an original invitation to the Georgian Hotel reception and exhibition, accompany the present work.




    Condition Report*: The work appears to be laid down on board by the artist himself; minor frame wear; a tiny abrasion with loss at upper center edge and another at center right edge - not visible when framed; under UV light, there appears to be no inpaint; framed under glass; according to letter from artist, artist chose the frame. Framed Dimensions 14.25 X 15.75 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, 2018
    8th Thursday
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