Henry F. Farny (1847-1916)
Henry F. Farny (1847-1916)

Indian Encampment

Henry F. Farny (1847-1916)
Indian Encampment
signed and dated 'H.F. Farny-./92' with artist's device (lower right)
gouache on paper
image, 8 ¼ x 14 in. (21 x 35.6 cm.); overall, 8 ¾ x 14 ½ in. (22.2 x 36.8 cm.)
Executed in 1892.
Judge Ferdinand Jelke Jr., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1900.
Ferdinand Jelke III, by descent.
Janel Jelke Kenworthy, by descent, circa 1970.
Private collection, Pennsylvania.
Private collection, Wyoming, 2005.
Christie's, New York, 20 May 2009, lot 28.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.

Lot Essay

An exceptional example of the artist's work in gouache, Indian Encampment of 1892 was executed during the height of Henry Farny's painting career. A detailed depiction of everyday life, the present work reveals Farny's masterful handling of color, space and atmosphere, together with his celebrated dedication to rendering his Native American subject in a decidedly compassionate manner.

French by birth, Farny immigrated to Pennsylvania with his parents and shortly thereafter settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he spent the remainder of his life. Following the path of earlier Cincinnati artists, Farny traveled to Europe to study in Germany. There, Farny not only acquired technical skills but also made the acquaintance of Albert Bierstadt, who encouraged him to travel to the American West. Farny made his first trip to the West in 1881, spending time at Fort Yates along the Missouri River near present day North Dakota. He returned West again in 1883 and 1884 and continued to visit until his last trip in 1894. During these trips, Farny often became an active participant in the social life of the Indians he encountered, while also gathering materials for the works he would later complete in his Cincinnati studio.

Collecting artifacts and props from the Indians he came to know affectionately, Farny recreated scenes and events he witnessed on the Plains and in the mountains. Aided by on-site sketches and photographs, Farny gathered sufficient material and firsthand experience to paint the Indians of the American West in a notably sympathetic fashion. In contrast to many of his contemporaries who employed exaggerated effects of light, aggrandized scale and explosions of action to create drama, Farny succeeded in portraying his narratives with an uncommon subtlety and harmony and imbuing them with great emotion.

Farny's ability to accurately capture his then-mysterious subjects was heightened through his use of color in conveying the atmosphere and landscape in which they lived. In Indian Encampment, in order to give the viewer a sense of the ethereal beauty of the untouched land, Farny chooses tones of blue, green and gray to depict the evenly sun-drenched landscape. The pale, hardened ground on which the figural group stands is complemented by cooler bands of green in the middle ground and an expansive blue sky. The entire composition is thoughtfully developed with contrasting horizontal bands of warm and cool tones that effectively lend to the expansiveness of the overall landscape. Combined with Farny's precise modeling and exacting detail, the result is an intense clarity of vision and strength of emotion.

Farny's treatment of his American Indian subject, in his characteristically subtle manner, won the artist great popularity and acclaim during his lifetime, including from President Theodore Roosevelt, and has contributed to his continued celebration to this day.

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