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    Henry Farny (American, 1847-1916)
    Indian Chief
    Gouache and watercolor on paper
    8-1/8 x 5-7/8 inches (20.6 x 14.9 cm)
    Signed lower right: Farny

    The artist;
    Mrs. Rudolph Wurlitzer, the artist's sister, gift from the above;
    The Bahlmann family, Cincinnati, Ohio, gift from the above, circa 1930s;
    Mrs. Carrie Bahlmann, Cincinnati, Ohio, by descent, 1965;
    Private collection, Cincinnati, Ohio.

    Of all of the artists who portrayed American Indians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Henry Farny holds a unique place. He chose to chronicle the quieter moments of life on the high plains and mountains of the American West. While other artists focused on the high drama and adventure of conflicts between Native Americans and encroaching settlers, Farny most often presented a counterpoint to such action. His small paintings, highly detailed and precise, with absolute fidelity to historical accuracy, are visual records of Native culture. Such everyday practices as making or moving camp, preparing for and returning from the hunt, or simply stopping for a conversation beside a stream, were largely overlooked by most other artists. For Farny, these are the central elements of many of his best compositions. Because Farny most often concentrated on the totality of Native culture, the common details that combine to form the mosaic of life, his work presents a far more comprehensive portrait and history of the true lives of American Indians at the close of the 19th century than most of his contemporary artists.

    Farny was born in Ribeauville, Alsace, France in 1847 and migrated with his family to western Pennsylvania in 1848. His later fascination with American Indians most likely began at an early age with his family's association with a group of Seneca Indians who lived nearby. In 1859, Farny's family sought better opportunities farther west, and moved to Cincinnati. Aside from several trips to Europe, where he received his artistic training, Farny remained in Cincinnati. His artistic talent was nurtured at an early age and by 1865 at the age of eighteen he was already producing illustrations for Harper's and other publications. He remained a successful illustrator for much of his early artistic career and was afforded national recognition for his work in the McGuffey Reader, which helped educate thousands of American children.

    Intrigued by news of the capture of famed Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, Farny embarked on his first western journey in 1881 to Fort Yates on the Missouri River, following in the footsteps of such early western painters as George Catlin and Karl Bodmer. By the time he arrived, Sitting Bull had already been removed, but Farny stayed at the fort for several months and frequently visited nearby Indian villages. The trip turned out to be a true turning point in his artistic career. The life that he observed among the Native people of the plains would remain his most constant artistic pursuit.

    Farny produced several sketches and photographs during his time at Fort Yates which he continued to use as resources for his paintings throughout his career. He also began collecting items such as clothing, weapons, saddles, and ceremonial objects. All of these items frequently found their way into his paintings and many were used on numerous occasions to add just the right touch of authenticity. Farny made other trips West from 1881 to 1894, and he continued to collect Native American material and to amass a sizeable collection of photographs of Indian culture. Farny was not a literal historian of Indian life, choosing instead to base his paintings on various elements from his sketches, photographs, and the photographs of others.

    Farny began painting American Indians just as their culture was undergoing a dramatic and traumatic transformation from the freedom of the open plains to the containment of the reservation system. His firsthand observation of that transformation can be felt in his compositions which frequently show individuals isolated against beautiful yet desolate backgrounds or separated and apart from family groups and villages.

    Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000.

    Condition Report*: Sheet measures 8.375 x 6.125 inches and is secured with archival edges to backing board; there appears to be extremely minor edge wear; framed under glass.
    Framed Dimensions 20 X 17.75 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.

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