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    ERNEST LEONARD BLUMENSCHEIN (American, 1874-1960)
    Taos Indian Chief
    Oil on canvas laid on board
    16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
    Signed and inscribed lower left: E.L. Blumenschein, Taos


    Gerald P. Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1984;
    Private collection, 1984-92;
    Gerald P. Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1992;
    Private collection;
    Owings-Dewey Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico;
    Biltmore Galleries, Scottsdale, Arizona, 1999.

    Cincinnati [Art] Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, "Paintings of American Indians and Their Country by Ernest L. Blumenschein," February 1928 (as Indian Profile with Red Bonnet);
    Museum of Art of the American West, Houston, Texas (in association with the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico), "Masterworks of the Taos Founders," September 10-November 25, 1984 (as Indian with Headdress).

    G. Maxon-Edgerton, ed., American Art of the Taos School: A Selection of Paintings from the Gerald Peters Collection. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1978, n.p., pl. 51, illustrated;
    Masterworks of the Taos Founders, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Art of the American West, Houston, Texas (in association with the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico), 1984, n.p., pl. 12, illustrated.

    After permanently settling in Taos in 1919, Ernest Blumenschein reworked his monumental Pueblo Indian painting from 1915, The Chief's Two Sons, from which the present lot, Taos Indian Chief (also known as Indian Profile with Red Bonnet and Indian with Headdress), ultimately emerged. In The Chief's Two Sons, Blumenschein created a narrative and symbolic double-portrait, where two virile Pueblo warriors, each wearing a war bonnet and holding an eagle-feather fan, proudly stand and appear to converse in front of a panoramic sweep of cottonwood trees and an adobe settlement; their youth, strength, upright stature, and connectedness -- the boy on the right turns toward his brother, angling his feather fan in a parallel gesture -- point to the future prosperity of the tribe. Designed as an exhibition piece, the 34 x 70" canvas toured over the next three years to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the National Academy of Design in New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago, and was widely recognized as one of Blumenschein's most successful and important works.

    The Chief's Two Sons recalls Blumenschein's other large-scale, multi-figure portraits from the 1910s, including Wise Man, Warrior, and Youth (1912, location unknown), a pyramidal arrangement of three generations of Pueblos; the critically acclaimed The Peacemaker (The Orator) (1913, The Anschutz Collection, Denver, Colorado), depicting a warrior holding a white "peace" cloth and trying to reconcile the rift between two Pueblo chiefs; and The Chief Speaks (1917, private collection), where a bonneted chief in white robes, flanked by a youth and an old man, majestically poses before the Sangre de Christo Mountains. In these paintings, Blumenschein explored not merely the psychological relationships among tribe members, but also Post-Impressionist techniques: "the Post-Impressionist, [he] observed, deals in 'large, flat masses,' simple, harmonized colors, 'decorative composition,' and 'imaginative' expressions that reflect 'personal feelings'" (P. Hassrick and E. Cunningham, In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein, Norman, Oklahoma, 2009, p. 87).

    Blumenschein was known to rework certain of his canvases, often years later, as well as reuse certain props, costumes, or models. In the early 1920s, he cut The Chief's Two Sons in half and painted over the background to make two distinct portraits, Eagle Fan (originally the left half; Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado) and Eagle Feather, Prayer Chant (originally the right half; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine). Now silhouetted against a simple white background, the son in Eagle Feather, Prayer Chant becomes a decorative configuration of lines and colors -- the rich earth tones of his body offset by the brighter reds, greens, and yellows of his war bonnet. Blumenschein featured this same Plains Indian headdress with red-dyed eagle feathers, green-dyed downy feathers, beaded brow band, and ermine side drops in other paintings, notably Taos Indian Holding a Water Jar (1911, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico), The Chief Speaks (1917, private collection), and The Red War Bonnet (private collection).

    The present work, Taos Indian Chief, circa 1927, is a cropped variation of Eagle Feather, Prayer Chant and of the related 1927 painting Eagle Wing Fan (location unknown). In Eagle Wing Fan, Blumenschein again renders the son in profile, with a close-eyed, open-mouthed dreamy expression, and wearing the Plains Indian headdress (the side drops replaced by a rosette). The only significant additions are a red cloak on the arm of the chief and a background with a mesa beneath purple clouds. Art historian Peter H. Hassrick notes that Blumenschein exhibited both this portrait and a related painting of the small bluff, Mesa Near Abique, New Mexico (Haub Collection, Tacoma Art Museum, Washington) at the Cincinnati [Art] Museum in 1928. Blumenschein's emphasis in these works on textural brushwork and flattened shapes of bold color underscores his continued experimentation with Post-Impressionism, what ensured his success among the Taos modernists.

    We wish to thank Peter H. Hassrick for providing invaluable catalogue information.

    More information about ERNEST LEONARD BLUMENSCHEIN, also known as Blumenschein, Ernest Leonard, Ernest Leonard Blumenschein.

    Condition Report*: Light craquelure, particularly in the sky; stable surface; several tiny flecks of gold gilt at the far right top and bottom extreme edges; very minor surface abrasion at the center top edge; under UV exam, there appear to be spots of minor inpainting in the sky and in the chief's hair, likely to help stabilize the existing craquelure, but the professional varnish layer makes it difficult to assess the extent of the restoration. Framed Dimensions 25 X 29 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. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    2nd Saturday
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