Friday, December 25, 2015

Paintings of the American West, continued. Merry Christmas! December 25, 2015

             The Peacemaker by Ernest Blumenschein

Dover Publications, Inc. Minola, New York.  120 Great Paintings of the American West
Continuing to feature Art of the American West, this painting by Ernest Blumenschein, 1913 depicts two warring chiefs with a symbolic peacemaker in the foreground.  Did this painting symbolize the conflict in Europe?  It was thought that the small child represented the uncertain future of both the Indian nations and the world at large.

Mr. Blumenschein was a part of the Taos, New Mexico  Society of Artists (see my previous blog, under "T," Ernest Blumenschein is the artist on the left in the photo. There are many, many references to him on the web and several books are available.  The Taos artists as they painted the Native Americans, became involved in the Native's struggles to maintain their culture and independence.

To end this turbulent year, I thought this painting was appropriate.  "Blessed are the Peacemakers. . . ."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

W is for one of the last letters of the Alphabet. April Challenge to finish in December.

             On the October Trail (a Navajo family, 1908)

                                    N.C. Wyeth (1842-1944)
Paintings of the American West, Dover Publications, Mineoal, New York
N.C. Wyeth, the patriarch of an American family of artists. N.C. was an illustrator, if any of you remember his illustrations of Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and other children's classics. 
More to write about this amazing family, but in shorter passages in the future, as I carefully use the keyboard again.
After 5 months of non-blogging, I am back but having to learn all 
the techniques again. I missed my blogging friends very much. Overuse injuries take a long time to heal.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for unable to finish the challege

Unfortunately, I am unable to finish the challenge.  Hope to finish up later with the paintings I have.  My shoulder and elbow are in pain, probably an over use injury (too much blogging? )  Anyway, I have enjoyed this.  Off to the doctor.

Thanks to all of you who commented and visited.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for the Taos Art Colony. A-Z Challenge

Taos Art Colony (2015:  100 Year Anniversary of the Taos Society of Artists)

E. L. Blumenschein, B.G. Phillips, J.H. Sharp. and E.I Couse, 1912. 

In 1915, 6 artists decided to form a group, an alliance of sorts, called the Taos Society of Artists in Taos, New Mexico.

The story begins in 1894 when three American artists became friends while studying at the Academie Julian in Paris.  Joseph Sharp, had told them about his earlier travels in Taos in 1893, and how the landscapes, the native peoples, the light and the dry climate had intrigued him.  Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein  were interested and they envisioned creating "Real American Art," based on American imagery and Native American Symbolism.

Back in the United States, Phillips and Blumenschein decided to head West.  A broken wagon wheel outside of Taos, delayed them and they discovered all that Sharp had described.  Phillips stayed, Blumenschein visited annually, Sharp made it his home in 1908.

By 1915, the six founding members, Joseph Henry Sharp, Ernest L. Blumenschein, W. Herbert Dunton, E. Irving Couse, Bert G. Phillips, and Oscar Bernhaus, settled in after founding the Taos Society of Artists.

They built small homes, rustic in style, near one another and shared their work, and critiques.  Daily life in Taos was simple, no electricity or indoor plumbing.  But they were friends and supported each other.  Dinners, dancing, card games, music, informal gatherings with families and children who became part of the scene.

What held the group together was the business of art. By now the group had grown to twelve members.  The main focus of the group was promoting their art. Not many visitors to Taos which was not easily accessible, so the group arranged traveling exhibits, showed at galleries and museums outside of New Mexico and around the country.

By the 1920's, most members had national reputations, won national competitions and were successful. But by 1927, realizing that the Taos Society of Artists had outlived their usefulness, they disbanded.

But that did not mean the end of the colony, all of the members continued to live and work in Taos.  (To be continued. . .) 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Art of the American West. Joseph Henry Sharp. A-Z Challenge.

         Making Sweet Grass Medicine. c/ 1920.  Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953)

Dover Publications, Inc.  Mineola, New York.  Great Paintings of the American West.

Joseph Henry Sharp was born in Bridgeport, Ohio on September 27, 1859 to Irish immigrant parents.  His father was a merchant.  From childhood on, Sharp was fascinated by anything that concerned Indians.  He read Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper where he first learned about "the noble red man."

An accident when he was twelve, changed his life, he was playing under a bridge spanning a river, fell in and almost drowned.  He was pulled out and at home his mother rolled him back and forth over a barrel to force water from his lungs.  This saved his life but left him with a severe hearing loss, which later made him totally deaf.  His father died that same year and Henry began working at a nail factory to help support his family.  His hearing loss made schooling impossible.  Later he moved to Cincinnati, lived with his aunt, worked, sent money to his mother. 

Working, he enrolled in the Cincinnati Art Academy.  But like many before him, he traveled to Europe to study in Antwerp, Belgium and the Academie Julian in Paris and then with Frank Duveneck in Italy.

After he returned to America, he married, taught at the Cincinnati Art Academy and painted portraits of local society members. But the call of the West was strong, and he and a fellow artist traveled to New Mexico on a commissionFrom Harper's Weekly  to illustrate life at the Taos Pueblo.  Later he became one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists.

His fascination however was with the battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25, 26th, 1876,  where General George Armstrong Custer, head of the army of the United States Cavalry, 212 strong, were killed in conflict against superior Indian forces. Sharp remembered the headlines, "Custer's Seventh Cavalry Massacred by Savages."  Custer was hailed as a hero. Later investigations would raise questions about the conduct of Custer and his fellow officers.  Sharp, who was twelve at the time, held Custer as a hero.

Twenty-five years later, Sharp, faced these same Indian warriors who sat for their portraits. President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned him to paint these portraits of the 200 Native American warriors who had survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  They became his friends.

When he was 93, he traveled to California, intending to return to New Mexico, but died in Sacramento.

During his life he painted 10, 500 works of art, of which 7, 800 were Native American subjects, and 3, 200 were portraits.  He was a Historian of the West as well as a painter.  His works are in museums all over the United States and in the Smithsonian.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Art of the American West. Frederick Remington. A-Z Challenge

        Aiding a Comrade. 1890 Frederic Remington (1861-1909)

Dover Publications. Mineola, New York. Paintings of the American West

Born in upstate New York, Frederick Remington came from wealth. His father was in the newspaper business and hoped his only son would go to college even though his early interests were hunting, fishing and hiking. In 1878 Remington enrolled at Yale's School of Fine Arts. His father died while Frederick was only a year and a half into his studies, so he left school and tried ranching in Montana. after several business ventures, a sheep ranch, hardware store, and saloon, and not enjoying the hard life in the West, he moved back to the East coast, with his wife who had been his childhood sweetheart, Eva Caten, and studied briefly at the Art Students' League.

He spent a great deal of time traveling to Arizona, Texas and New Mexico and became an illustrator for Harper's Magazine and Century Magazine. He also write articles creating a kind of mythical cowboy and took artistic liberties with the stories and illustrations. 

During the 1890's he began to learn and master the art of sculpting, using the lost wax process. He also specialized in painting cowboys, and the military.

He was one of the first American Artists to illustrate the true gait of the horse, with the galloping horse his signature subject, copied by many he said, "the galloping horse must be incorrectly drawn from the photographic standpoint to achieve the desired affect." He used photography to help him illustrate his paintings for which he was criticized.

In great demand as an illustrator.  He produced more than 3,000 drawings and paintings, twenty two bronze sculptures, a novel, a Broadway play, and over one hundred articles and stories.  John Ford's film, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" was inspired by Remington's work and the cigarette ad using the Marlboro Man was one of Remington's illustrations.

He gave Americans what they wanted to see in themselves, bravery, independence and optimism. He died in 1909 at the age of 48 following an emergency appendectomy. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quotes from the Indian Removal Act. A-Z Challenge

                                     Quotes from the Indian Removal Act of 1830

These words are chilling in themselves.

"On May 28th, 1830, during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, this act was passed which gave the president the authority to negotiate with Indian tribes in the Southern United States for their removal to federal territory  west of the Mississippi, in exchange for their ancestral homeland."  (italics mine).

"As early as the 1800's, the United States Government began a systematic effort to remove Native American Tribes from the southeast.  These tribes were: The Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, and the original Cherokee Nations--referred to as "Five Civilized Tribes" by European settlers in reference to the tribes' adoption of aspects of colonial culture, and these five had been established as autonomous nations in the southeastern United States."

"The Removal Act paved the way for the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of American Indians from their traditional homeland to the West, an event known as the "Trail of Tears."

There are more details on the Wikipedia website, including the issues discussed in Congress and the Supreme Court.

Yes,  there was opposition, many Christian missionary groups,  New Jersey senator Theodore Frelinghuysen and Congressman Davy Crockett of Tennessee (yes, that Davy Crockett) spoke out against the legislation. After a bitter debate in Congress, the Removal Act was passed.

Jackson viewed his position as a "wise and humane policy." Here are his words. This is long, but I had to include it. 

"Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country and philanthropy has long been busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth. . . . But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another.  Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers.  What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise of industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion."-- Andrew Jackson

Thank you, Wikipedia for all your help.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Art of the American West. Bert Geer Phillips. A-Z Challenge.

Song of the Aspen. c.1926-28.  Bert Geer Phillips. (1868-1956)

Dover Publications Inc. Mineola, New York. Great Paintings of  the American West.

Bert Geer Phillips was an American Artist and founding member of the Taos Society of Artists and was the first to permanently settle in Taos, New Mexico.  Primarily known for his paintings of Native Americans, New Mexico, and the American Southwest.

He was born in Hudson, New York in 1868.  Stories of Kit Carson, and adventures of Western adventure fascinated him while growing up. In later years he said, as a child, you could always find him, paintbrush in hand. When he was sixteen, he moved to New York and attended the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. Paris was next where he studied at the Academie Julian.

He returned to New York and in 1898, he and Ernest Blumenschein, another noted artist, set out to explore the American West.  After buying equipment in Denver, Colorado, their wagon broke down in Northern New Mexico.  Repairing their wagon in Taos, they decided to stay and open a studio.  Blumenschein left a few months later, but Phillips stayed and created the Taos Society of Artists. (more on Taos on the "T" day of the Challenge.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Art of the American West. The Oregon Trail. 1869. A-Z Challenge

                       The Oregon Trail.  Albert Bierstadt.(1830-1902)

Dover Publications, Mineola, New York.  American Art of the West.

Albert Bierstadt was a German born landscape artist, one of the Hudson River school of painters.  These painters glorified nature and his picturesque scenes of the natural wonders of the West captured the beauty of the American wilderness.

He was born in Solingen, Germany.  When he was two years old, his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1853 he returned to Germany to study in Dusseldorf, where he practiced his art by painting Alpine landscapes. When he returned to America in 1857, he joined an overland survey company on their trip West.  Along the route, he sketched rock formations, mountain ranges,  took photographs, which became the huge paintings, with painstaking detail and dramatic lighting, which he painted in his New York studio.  

In 1867, he married and he and his new bride went to London.  When his wife needed a warmer climate, they moved to Nassau, the Bahamas, where he found new subjects for his painting, the tropics.

He died suddenly in 1902 and his popularity died with him until the 1960's when there was more interest in preserving American national landmarks, and his paintings began to be shown again.

He was a prolific artist, painting possibly as many as 4000 works, most have survived and are in many museums in the United States.

We have a mountain in Colorado that was named in his honor, Mount Bierstadt. Mount Bierstadt is one of our "fourteeners", 14, 065 feet tall, climbable for beginners.

Mount Bierstadt

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Art of the American West. Charles Christian Nahl. (1818-1878)

          Sunday Morning in the Mines, 1872.  Charles Christian Nahl.

Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York.  Great Paintings of the American West.

Here we have a scene with a great deal going on. Sunday is a day of rest and time to do laundry, read the Bible to fellow miners who don't read, horse race, play a little music, and write a letter home.

Charles Christian Nahl was born in 1818 in Kassel, Germany, to a family of well-known artists dating back to the 17th century.  He studied at the Kassel Art Academy in Germany.  Because of the political unrest in Europe, he and his family left for the California Gold Rush in 1851.  He tried mining himself, even buying a "salted mine" (a mine that has some gold placed in it to make the buyer believe that it did have gold). He and his brothers began sketching miners in exchange for gold. They also illustrated  local newspapers and books and magazines.

After a fire destroyed their studio and most of their artwork, they moved to San Francisco.  Charles became one of the most significant artists in California, the first to enjoy the patronage of wealthy clients.

During the 1870's his depiction of the bawdy lives of the early miners were popular and he was considered one of the leading artists depicting pioneer life in California.  He also painted classical paintings with allegorical themes and his detail painting of animals compared him to the last of the 19th Century Neoclassical artists.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Art of the American West. Thomas Moran. A-Z Challenge

                    The Grand Canyon.  1913 Thomas Moran (1837-1926)

Dover Publications. Mineola, New York. Great Paintings of the American West.

                            Children of the Mountain. Thomas Moran. 1866.

Dover Publications. Mineaola, New York. Great Paintings of the American West.

Thomas Moran was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, in 1837.  In 1844 his family moved to Baltimore, then settled in Philadelphia.  When he was 16, Moran began an apprenticeship in a wood engraver's shop.  After two years, left to begin a full-time painting career but he knew he need more training so, like many others, he studied in Europe and was especially interested in the art of J.W. Turner. 


He became a well-known painter, engraver and illustrator, working for Scribner's magazine. Through Scribner's he learned of an expedition to Yellowstone and became part of the survey team, sponsored by the Northern Pacific Railroad.  The Northern Pacific was very interested in popularizing the area thinking of expanding their railroad westward.

Moran spent  40 days in the area, and documented over 30 different sites.  His paintings were instrumental in Yellowstone becoming a national park.  His diary of his impressions of his trip is available on:

As an extra bonus, these American stamps of the Hudson River School were just released. Notice Thomas Moran's painting in the upper left hand corner. 

Hudson River School Stamps

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Art of the American West. "The Lost Greenhorn." ca. 1860. A-Z Challenge

                   The Lost Greenhorn. Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874)

Dover Publications. Inc.Mineola, New York. 120 Paintings of the Great American West

Miller accompanied a caravan taking supplies to fur traders.  While there he heard about the caravan's cook who became lost on the prairie when he set out alone to go buffalo hunting.


Alfred Jacob Miller was born in Baltimore, Maryland where he attended public schools and hoped to become a painter. He painted on his own at the beginning but felt he needed more training and in 1833 he went to Europe, traveling to Paris, Bologna,Venice and Switzerland as well. He studied in France from 1833-1834 and Italy. 

 After opening a studio in New Orleans, he met Captain William Drummond Stewart, a Scottish aristocrat  and British Army officer who engaged Miller into accompanying him on a trip to the Rocky Mountains in 1837 where he would make sketches that could later be turned into oil paintings for Stewart's castle in Scotland. 

Besides the sketches of mountain men, Indians, he also sketched fur traders. He was the only artist to record the era of the fur traders. These sketches, later oil paintings, were not intended for public display, but for the personal enjoyment of Stewart. Miller lived in Stewart's castle for two years while completing his commission.

Miller then settled in Baltimore, did well doing portraits and other art. He died in 1874.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Art of the American West. Charles Bird King. A-Z Challenge.

Young Omaha, War Eagle, Little Missouri, and Pawnees. 182l. by Charles Bird King

Charles Bird King

Dover Publications, Inc.  Mineola, New York.  120 Paintings of the Great American West.

"These Plains Indian Chiefs were among many Indians who traveled to Washington to meet with the president to negotiate their territorial rights with the government.  At the White House, the Capital, and in private homes, policymakers employed bribery, dazzle (wonder what the dazzle was), and intimidation to win the cooperation of these men.  Charles Bird King painted these portraits in his studio, creating a gallery of allies in the governments plan to settle the Indian question peacefully."

War Eagle is wearing a presidential peace medal, valued by the Native Americans as a sign of status and worn on all formal occasions.  But note the war ax, the face paint, and feathers, depicting the Indians as savages which underlined the impression of them as savages.

One Englishman who viewed the exhibit, saw them this way, "men of large stature, very muscular, having fine open countenances, the the real Roman nose, dignified in their manners, and peaceful and quiet in their habits."

 ( James Monroe was president, during 1821, so I assume his face is on the medal that War Eagle is wearing, hard to tell though) James Monroe felt that the Indians could be assimilated to become agricultural peoples. 

(material for this blog was from the Smithsonian American Art Site, although Wikipedia has similar comments) http:/

Charles Bird King, 1785-1862,  was primarily a portrait artist and while working in Washington, D.C. he was hired by the War Department to document visiting Native American visitors during the 1830's and 1830's.  He studied under painter Benjamin West at the Royal Academy in London when he was in his 20's.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Art of the American West. John Wesley Jarvis. A-Z Challenge

  Black Hawk and His son, Whirling Thunder, 1833.  John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840)

Some Indian tribes were involved in the War of 1812 and fought with the British.  Black Hawk and his tribe were one of them, thinking that with British victory, they would get back their lands.

Black Hawk was one of the important resistant leaders of the Sauk and Fox Indians, part of the Algonquian peoples of the Great Lakes/Upper Midwest region.  The war he was part of was named the "Black Hawk War of 1812" and was fought over the illegal seizures of Indian homelands which resulted in the famous "Trail of Tears." This infamous event with the defeat of the Sauks and the Foxes, and other tribes as well. was the forced relocation of the Indians,

After the war, all the captives including Black Hawk and his son, were taken on a circuit show and exhibited to crowds of the curious, and in some areas where the feelings against the Indians was strong, they were greeted with riots and lynch mobs.  It has been said that some who witnessed these displays, began to object because Black Hawk and Whirling Thunder endured the exhibits with quiet and sad dignity.

During his captivity, Black Hawk was interviewed for a biography, and sat for several portraits.  He was allowed to return to his tribe where he died in in 1838.


John Wesley Jarvis was born in South Shields England and moved to the United States in the 1780's. His most important work was his commission for six full-length portraits of the naval heroes of the War of 1812.  Examples of his paintings are in the collections of the New York Historical Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Art of the American West. "In Without Knocking." 1909. A-Z Challenge

           In Without Knocking.  Charles M. Russell. (1864-1926)

Dover Publications. Inc. Mineola, New York.  Art of the American West.

This is an example of the "Cowboy" image of the American West, rough, sometimes breaking the law, think Clint Eastwood.

Charles M. Russell was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on March 19th, 1864.  As a child he fantasized about being a cowboy in the American West and at an early age was drawing his Western dreams and sculpting. He left home at 16 for Montana, and after spending two years there, became a wrangler.

For eleven years he indulged in two of his passions, cowboying and art.  Because he was self-taught, his wife Nancy is credited with giving him the confidence to become a full-time artist, he was not sure he could support himself and his family.  She also became his business manager and is credited with giving his art the financial success that it was.  He did very well selling his art back East, where he said his paintings brought "dead man's prices."  He also created bronzes with the same Western theme and even now, one can buy copies on line.  But his art now sells for millions.

Charles M. Russell

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Art of the American West. Thomas Hill. 1829-1908. A-Z Challenge


                       View of Yosemite Valley, 1871

Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola,  New York

Thomas Hill was born in England on September 11, 1829.  At the age of 15 he emigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Taunton, Massachusetts.  In 1851 he married Charlotte Hawkes.  He worked as a carriage painter, furniture decorator and interior designer.

When he was 24, he attended evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. During his years as a student he traveled to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and sketched alongside members of the Hudson River School. Then in 1856, he and his family moved to San Francisco, California.  There he made his first trip to the Yosemite Valley in 1862 which made a huge impression.  He traveled back and forth from New Hampshire, especially the White Mountains, to California.

The Hudson River School celebrates an awe for nature and paint man on a very small scale compared with the vast landscape.  If you look carefully at the painting you can see tiny figures along the hill line, one on horseback.  Hill painted "en plein air," finishing the small paintings begun outdoors,  later indoors on large canvases. The Yosemite canvas was 30 by 48 inches.

Hill was acclaimed in his lifetime as an eminent artist with high praise for his work. An interesting fact was that this painting was chosen to be the backdrop of the head table at Barack Obama's inaugural luncheon to commemorate Lincoln's 1864 signing of the Yosemite Grant.  Lincoln signed this in the midst of the Civil War. The Yosemite Grant was the first land grant to protect wild lands for the enjoyment of the people. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Art of the American West. Geronimo. c. 1900. A-Z Challenge

                         Geronimo. c. 1900  by Henry Cross 1837-1918

Today I will feature the subject of the painting instead of the artist because Geronimo was such a controversial figure and symbol of the American West and its history.

"Geronimo, the Apache chief, surrendered for the final time on September 4th, 1886, effectively ending the Indian Wars fought on various fronts throughout the Southwest over the previous half-century.  With his fugitive band reduced to eighteen warriors, and with 5,000 soldiers pursuing them across the mountains of Arizona and Mexico, Geronimo saw no option. He accepted his fate. This is what he wrote in his autobiography."

"After I fought and lost and after I traveled over the country in which the white man lives and saw his cities and the work he had done, my heart was ready to burst.  I knew that the race of the Indian was run. . . .The sun rises and shines for a time, and then it goes down, sinking out of sight and is lost.  So it will be with the Indians."*

*From Barnes and Noble Desk Diary, 2015. Barnes & Noble, New York.

 There is a You Tube featuring Geronimo's story, about 40 minutes long, which gives details in photos and pictures. His story is sad, tragic.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Art of the American West. Henry Farney. A-Z Challenge

              Obsidian Mountain in the Yellowstone. 1897  Henry Farny. (1847-1916)

Wikipedia.  Henry Farny

Henry Francis Farny was born in Alsace, France, the son of a political refugee who emigrated to Pennsylvania when Henry was six years old.  His interest in Native Americans began in childhood because a band of friendly Senecas Indians lived nearby.

In 1859, Henry's family moved to Cincinnati and he began his first job as an apprentice lithographer.  He worked at Harpers' Weekly but realized he needed more art training so he traveled to Germany to study at the Royal Academy in Dusseldorf where he remained for three years.

After returning to Cincinnati, he worked as an illustrator for various magazines, but his interest in Indians never wavered and he began traveling in the West researching and painting scenes of the Plains Indians including portraits of Sitting Bull, Geronimo, other Apaches who were being held by the American Government.  He also illustrated articles by the famed anthropologist, Frank Cushing. (see previous post).

His work, according to the article "Taos and Santa Fe Painters," is in the romantic, realist style, but not overly idealized.  His light is strong, poses candid, and his goal was to preserve the details of a way of life he saw disappearing before his eyes.'"

Monday, April 6, 2015

Art of the American West. Thomas Eakins. A-Z Challenge

                      Franklin Hamilton Cushing. n.d.  Thomas Eakins 1844-1916.

Frank Cushing was an early anthropologist and Smithsonian ethnologist.  His pioneering studies of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico included "going native" and living with them from 1879-1884.  This painting shows him in full native regalia of his own design.


Thomas Eakins was born in Philadelphia.  He attended anatomy classes in America and studied art in Paris and Spain.  The realism in his paintings was admired. Photography and sculpture added to his artistic production.  And in his lifetime he produced hundreds of portraits of friends, prominent people in Philadelphia which gave an overview of the intellectual life of Philadelphia in the late 19th and 20th century.  Not limiting himself to the indoors, he also painted large canvases of outdoor life.

He was especially noted for his work as a teacher, highly influential in American art.  Unfortunately, his professional life was tainted by sex scandals, primarily because of his fascination with the human figure and his insistence that nude models be used in his classes and his own works.  There was also the implication that he used a device to project photographs on the canvas which he outlined and then later painted.

Eakins was a controversial figure whose work received little official recognition during his lifetime.  However, some art historians are quoted as saying he was "the strongest, most profound realist in 19th and 20th century art."

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Art of the American West. Maynard Dixon. A-Z Challenge.

The Medicine Robe. 1915.  Maynard Dixon. (1875-1946)

Dover Publications

Maynard Dixon was born in Fresno, California.  His mother, a well-educated daughter of a Naval officer, shared her love of classical literature and encouraged her son in his writing and drawing.  He briefly attended the San Francisco School of Design before traveling to to the Southwest: New Mexico, Arizona and Utah where he worked as a wrangler. This began his life-long love of the area.  At first he worked as an illustrator of books and magazines with Western themes.  For a time he lived in New York with his first wife but returned to the Southwest where he said, "I want to create honest art of the west,"  not the romanticized versions he was being paid to create. He was sympathetic to the plight of the Indians.  His first marriage ended and he began to develop his style, mostly Western themes. A black Stetson, boots and a bolo tie was his preferred clothing style.

As he began to modify his style, moving toward a more modern approach, he met and married Dorothea Lange, the famous photographer here in the States who became known for her work depicting migrants in the Salinas Valley whose images brought her fame. Dixon painted a series of social realism canvases which showed his shared interest in the subjects that Dorothea was photographing. They traveled, spent the summers in Utah. The couple divorced in 1935.

His third wife was the San Francisco muralist, Edith Hamlin.  She also had an influence on his art and he began to paint simple but powerful compositions in which the non-essential elements were distilled or eliminated.  They lived in Utah and spent the winter months in Tucson. He died in 1946 at the age of 71.

“Painting, as I see it, must be human rather than arty,” Dixon once said. “Painting is a means to an end. It is my way of saying what I want you to comprehend. It is my testimony in regard to life, and therefore I cannot lie in paint.” 

Maynard  Dixon 1906

Friday, April 3, 2015

Art of the American West. William Cary. A-Z Challenge

Buffalo Bill on Charlie. nd. William Cary.  (1840-1922)

 Dover Publications
Buffalo Bill, the symbol of the imagined West, partly myth, and folk hero.  His real name was William F. Cody, born in Iowa in 1846. During the Civil War he served as an Indian Scout in campaigns against the Kiowa and the Camanche Indians, and was part of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry. In 1867 he hunted buffalo for the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad and by his own count killed 4,280 head of buffalo in 17 months, which gave him the name, Buffalo Bill.

He was the hero of the dime novels of Ned Buntline which led him to star in plays written by Buntline, embelishing the myths of the West. In between acting, he escorted wealthy Easterners and European nobility on Western hunting expeditions.

In later years he created a Wild West show in 1883 which highlighted frontier life:  a buffalo hunt with real buffalo, and Indian attack on the Deadwood stage with real Indians, a Pony Express ride, and a presentation of Custer's Last Stand with Indians who had fought the actual battle, the Lakotas. This show was a huge success and toured for 30 years here in America and in Europe. 

Not all was celebrity life, in 1890 he helped restore peace after the massacre in Wounded Knee bringing some of the Indians from his troupe who helped restore order. 

Indian Scout, Army Veteran, actor, entrepreneur, Buffalo Bill died in 1917 and is buried on Lookout Mountain near Denver, Colorado.
William Cary, the artist, was known as one of the last artists to portray Native American themes before railroad development opened the West  He had first-hand knowledge of the Plains Indians way of life before the Indians were confined to the reservations.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Art of the of the American West. Irving R. Bacon. 2015 A-Z Challenge

            The Conquest of the Prairie. Irving R. Bacon. (1875-1962)

.   Dover Publications, Inc.
Indians watch silently as the long lines of covered wagons come through their land. A scout leads the way, a protector of the settlers.  A herd of buffalo between them, whose existence will also disappear, along with the Indians is another symbol.
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"The old Wild West is fast disappearing and the young artists will have it only in history."  Irving R. Bacon.

Irving R. Bacon was born in Fitchberg, Massachusetts in 1862 and received his early art training in the Art School of the Detroit Museum of Art. His early work was illustrations and cartoons reflecting his travels in the American West. his talent was said to have rivaled Remington and Russell.  In 1902 he studied in New York at the Chase School of Art and worked for Harper's Weekly and McClures Magazine. Still trying to learn more, he studied at the Royal Academy in Munich.  Then his focus changed when he returned to Detroit and sold a painting to Henry Ford.  In 1913 he was an employee of the Ford Motor Company painting scenes and portraits of Ford's family and friends, including Noah Webster, Luther Burbank, Mark Twain George Washington Carver, Stephen Foster, Thomas Edison and others. Bacon's interest in photography and motion pictures led him to become head of Ford Motor Company's photographic department.

Bacon bridged two historic time periods.  His early paintings of the Indians of the American West and then his further work with Henry Ford, meeting the movers and the shakers of new inventions and scientific discoveries and the celebrities of the 20th century must have been challenging and never dull. He worked for Ford for 30 years and retired in 1948.  He died in 1962 in Florida at the age of 87.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Art of the American West; Kenneth Miller Adams. 2015 AZ Challenge

The Mission Church by Kenneth Miller Adams (1897-1966)

Dover Publications Inc.
This is a rather pastoral view of a Mission Church in New Mexico, painted before 1925.  Kenneth Miller Adams, the artist was the last of the Taos painters, the art colony that flourished in Taos, New Mexico in the early 20th Century.

Adams, was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1897.  He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York, and was considered a modernist. He admired the Taos Indians and used many of them as subjects for his art.  

After teaching at the University of New Mexico in Taos, he earned a tenured professorship and a membership in the National Academy of Design. At one time he worked for the Federal Art Project where he was able to earn $42.50 per week, more than he could make as an art professor, never able to make a living from his art alone.

Modernism in art used ideas and methods which were very different from those used in the past, challenging the idea that art must be realistic and experimented with use of color, new techniques and mediums.

If you look at this painting, you can see that shapes are what stand out, the trees are realistic but the church and bright green color used in front are leaning toward the abstract.

This is an oral interview where Mr. Adams talks about his work for the Federal Art Project.

Monday, March 23, 2015

American Western Art 19th and 20th Century. The 2015 Blog Challenge Reveal

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountians.  Albert Bierstadt. (1830-1902)   Dover Publications, Inc. 
The theme for my blog challenge is American Western art from the 19th and 20th Century.  Imagine the explorers. adventurers, and early settlers, seeing the Western area of the Northern Hemisphere for the first time:  the vastness of the land, miles and miles of untouched forests, plains, unusual rock formations, and the peoples who lived there, the Indians.

The artists who depicted what they saw were the early photographers of the West, but of course they could and did embellish what they saw through an artists eye and point-of-view. 

In 1883 the historian, Frederick Jackson Turner in a lecture, entitled, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History."  His premise was that the existence of an area of free land had defined American society with the essential peaceful occupation of a largely empty continent and creation of a unique American identity.  Another view of this frontier is William Cody, also known as "Buffalo Bill."  His Wild West was one of conquest, taking the continent from the Indians.  "The hero of Turner's story is the farmer who overcame the wilderness with the ax and the plow. The hero of Buffalo Bill's story is the scout who overcame the Indians with the rifle and bullet."

Through these paintings, you will see both points of view, with much sympathy and admiration for the Indians. I am using the term "Indians" since that was the term used during those years.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Autism is a Puzzle

Red Car, Blue Car

Red Car, red car, red car: blue car, blue car, blue car. The small blond-haired boy bent over the toy cars, intently arranging them in the same pattern again and again.  As his mother watched, her face a mixture of fatigue and questioning, she asked herself the same questions she had asked herself so many times.  Why the intense fixation over certain toys; the meltdowns, screams over unseen terrors; no response to hugs; so many unfixable behaviors, and most difficult of all, no words, just sounds and small grunts to indicate desires.

As she watched, an image came to her.  There is a deep, dark space between us; his thoughts cannot reach me.  I cannot comprehend what he wants, what he thinks, how to help him.

The past few years came rushing back, their joy at having their first child, but as time went by, the realization that something was very, very wrong.  Tests, doctors, therapists, psychologists, always searching for answers, a way to make Matthew whole, but there were no answers, her marriage slowly disintegrating from stress and lack of attention.  Her husband away at work for longer and longer hours.

As she watched the cars being lined up, her small son seemed to take no notice of her.  She tried crossing that deep, dark space again.  "Matthew, Matthew, where are you?" He looked up.  "Mama?" he said.


I wrote this for a writing contest a few years ago thinking of my grandson and others who have autism.  My grandson is high functioning, not the Matthew of this story, and is mainstreamed in high school where he is a sophomore. He is a sweet boy, funny, affectionate, but has problems with social cues and difficulties with math particularly.

Some facts about autism:

  • Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys
  • Autism prevalence figures are growing
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
  • Autism costs some families $60,000 a year
  • Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ukraine: the News is Not Good

The Ukraine is an embattled country now and each day the news is worse as Putin masterminds the takeover of the whole country bit by bit.

I learned recently that my father was born in what used to be the capitol of the Ukraine, Kharkiv.  And as many emigres to the United States in the 1920's who endured many hardships in Europe with the end of World War I, he never talked about his past, or we would get little snippets of information in which, being young, we never were that interested. He changed his name which even made the getting the facts harder.  But as we grow older we are now more curious about our parents and their stories.

Although my grandparents were Estonian, our father was born in the Ukraine when it was part of the the Russian Empire, so the old maps of the Ukraine do not show the borders of Ukraine which was an independent country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Ukraine has endured untold hardships including the "Holodomor" 1932-1933, the systematic starvation by Stalin to erase the rise of Ukrainian nationalism, when 7 million people died of starvation.  And many in the United States during those years, denied what was occurring.

Now as our world leaders are debating what to do, how to help, actual help is not forthcoming. Words will not do it, force will.  Notice what Jordan, Egypt and Turkey did in the last few weeks to mitigate threats to their countries.

I know the situation is complicated, but I wanted to write a few lines about my support for my father's birthplace.

February 28

In the Wall Street Journal today is a photo of a bridge near Red Square where opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov was gunned down which  authorities say was a contract killing.  One day before his planned march in opposition to Vladimir Putin's government. In the background, you can see Red Square all lit up with outlined lights.

The cruelty and oppression learned during the 70 years of Communist Rule has not been forgotten.

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev is a book about "the surreal heart of the new Russia," a superb description of the Jekyll and Hyde of Russia today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mozart!

Today is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Birthday, January 27, 1756-1791, just 35 years old when he died, not of poisoning but strep throat which led to kidney failure it is thought.

I am a Mozart fan, not an intellectual choice I know, but Mozart's music makes me happy, and such a prodigious output of compositions.  The operas are wonderful and so beautifully composed.  My favorite is "The Marriage of Figaro" with the Countess' aria at the beginning of Act II, "Dove Sono,"  a special favorite, "Oh love give me some remedy."The music is filled with sadness  and longing as she laments her husband's infidelity.

There are many You Tube selections for this particular aria.  And if you have time, "The Making of Amadeus" is worthwhile viewing.  "Amadeus" was filmed in Prague, Czechoslovakia during the communist occupation and the cast and crew had some trying and interesting challenges in the making of the movie, but funny stories as well.

Happy Birthday Mozart!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Viva La France, always

We begin the New Year with a horrific attack on a magazine's editorial office in France.  It left twelve journalists and two police officer's dead.  The Eiffel Tower was in darkness for five minutes in a memorial tribute to the fallen.  And this was not the only terrorist attack.  Over the past year there have been many all over the world.

The problems are huge, and as in the 9/11 attack in New York, this brings the war, and it is a war, closer to home, in this case, Paris.

I have always loved the idea of Paris, even though I have only visited the city and country, three times over the past years.  But when I think about Paris, I see a beautiful city with so much history, history of bad times and good times.  The bloody French Revolution, the occupation of France during World War II, hard times after the war and so many governments, but still she emerged somehow stronger.

This is a task of monumental proportions.  Courage and clarity will be needed in the difficult times ahead for all of us.