Henry Farny's paintings of the great American West are some of the most enduring records of that rugged area that played such an important role in the nation's development. Farny traveled far and wide throughout the region, capturing snowy mountain peaks, fertile river valleys and broad stretches of plains.
Theodore Roosevelt Sage Grouse Shooting is an almost unique example of Farny's decision to depict a specific individual. Theodore Roosevelt, the robust twenty-sixth president of the United States is almost as well remembered for his politics as for his active physical lifestyle. Roosevelt was also acquainted with Henry Farny. "In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Cincinnati, and during an official visit to an exhibition, he praised several of Farny's paintings. . . . Farny had known Roosevelt for some time and had apparently hunted with him. A painting of Roosevelt on a grouse hunt is now in a private collection." (D. Carter, Henry Farny, New York, 1978, p. 31)
For Farny, action and drama were not conveyed by large numbers of figures. Rather, his sparse compositions lead his viewers to seriously contemplate the subject. In Theodore Roosevelt Sage Grouse Shooting, three principle figures carefully pick their way through plains in search of fowl. The sport is intense and the conditions are harsh, and Farny expertly conveys this with his sparse composition infused with abundant details.
Farny's skilled choice of color, one of his trademarks, is beautifully demonstrated. To give the viewer a sense of the ethereal beauty of the untouched land, Farny chose cool tones of blue and violet to depict both the sun-baked landscape of summer and the brisk, icy winters. In Theodore Roosevelt Sage Grouse Shooting, the pale hardened ground on which the three figures hunt is complimented by the darker hills in the distance and a narrow band of color to denote the horizon. The astounding expanse of the area literally dwarfs any and all forms placed in it.