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    Laverne Nelson Black (American, 1887-1938)
    Burros in Winter, Taos
    Oil on paperboard laid on masonite
    15-1/8 x 19-1/8 inches (38.4 x 48.6 cm)
    Signed and inscribed lower left: Laverne Nelson Black / Taos

    The artist;
    Private collection, New Mexico, acquired from the above;
    Private collection, California, by descent from the above.

    Of the Modernist artists like Marsden Hartley and John Marin working in Taos in the 1920s, Laverne Nelson Black excelled in winter landscapes, commonly featuring Pueblo Indians congregating outside of their homes with their horses. Burros in Winter, Taos showcases Black's favorite palette, brush techniques, and compositional formula. As in comparable paintings such as Taos, Winter Morning or Christmas Gathering (private collections), Black organizes the scene into three distinct horizontal color fields: the undulating blue Sangre de Christo Mountains, burnt-orange adobe compound, and broad expanse of white snow. Each of these passages allowed Black to experiment with his brushwork: up-close, the mountains become a tapestry of scumbled, "woven" hatch marks of greens, blues, maroons, and whites, dramatically intersected by the feathery vertical brushwork of a snow-laced tree; the adobe walls provide a flat surface for geometric color accents representing doors and illuminated windows; and the deep foreground snow is a bravura display of layered, sweeping strokes applied with a palette knife.

    Even with his emphasis on paint and design, however, Black never adopted complete abstraction. Instead, fascinated by Native American culture, he populated his winter landscapes with Pueblo ranchers in their everyday activities, whether saddling a burro, as in Burros in Winter, Taos, unloading supplies from a wagon, or gathering on horseback in preparation for an excursion. Black loved horses and included in all of his winter scenes an assortment of horses or mules, turned at different angles to underscore both the bustling activity of the compound, as well as his adeptness at rendering animal form and personality. In Burros in Winter, Taos, Black captures not simply the sturdiness and stoicism of the burros, weighted down by their loads of firewood, but also the gentle communing between man and animal. Ultimately, Black's paintings themselves, like these burros, perform a delicate balancing act, upholding Modernist design principles and Western genre painting.

    It is no surprise that Black gravitated toward Indian life as his preferred subject matter. As a boy in Viola, Wisconsin, he befriended Kickapoo children who lived on a neighboring reservation, and he made drawings using the same local soft stone-red keel -- employed by the tribe for ceremonial functions. Later, as a student at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he turned to Native American themes while learning the arts of painting and sculpture. Illustration work in Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York supported Black from 1908-1925, frequently taking him on assignment out West, where he sketched Indians on ranches and reservations. Poor health prompted him to relocate with his family to Taos in 1925, a happy change that resulted in the finest paintings of his career. Burros in Winter, Taos unequivocally stands among these.

    This lot is accompanied by the artist's sketchbook.

    Condition Report*: Sheet of paperboard is laid on masonite to support existing board; under UV exam, there appears to be a dime sized areas of inpainting in lower right quadrant to the right of burro's forelegs; recently cleaned, no major apparent condition issues to note. Artist sketch book measures 18 x 12 inches and has wear typical to plein air creation including creasing, discoloration, an some loss. Framed Dimensions 17.75 X 21.75 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. 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, 2016
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,320

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