George de Forest Brush
Artist: George De Forest Brush
Title: "The Ball Game, 1880"
Size: 14" x 20"
Medium: Oil on Canvas
George de Forest Brush (American 1854-1941)
For more than a year, starting in 1882, George de Forest Brush lived among the Arapahoe and Shoshone in Wyoming and the Crow in Montana. He began to compose and exhibit studio paintings based on his experiences, declaring, however, that he did not wish to be an ethnographer or historian of Indian people. Painting during a period bracketed by the Battle of the Little Big Horn (1876) and the massacre at Wounded Knee (1890), the artists created stylized images of Indians far removed from the reality of contemporary Indian life. Instead, Brush’s “Indian” paintings are unmistakably personal. Increasingly disturbed by the rapid industrialization and mechanization of American society, Brush offered, in his art, the perfect foil–a seductively beautiful, pre-industrial world where idealized Indians live in a timeless environment undisturbed by the advent of the modern.
Born in Tennessee, raised in Brooklyn and in Darien, Connecticut, Brush began his academic training at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1870. Three years later he journeyed to Paris to continue his training under the tutelage of Jean-Léon Gérôme, one of the most admired academic painters of the day. Following six years of travel and study, Brush returned to New York determined to find an American subject that would set him apart from his contemporaries. In the spring of 1882, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and among America’s native people, he found his subject.
Brush initially expressed a desire to explore in his paintings experiences common to all, such as the grief of the woman in Mourning Her Brave, his first major success. The artist’s agenda was, in fact, more complicated. For Brush, the figure of the Indian became a metaphor through which he could address his concern that a nation racing toward modernism was losing its regard for art born of craft and tradition. The artist’s technically exquisite and contextually rich Indian paintings have been brought together for the first time in this exhibition.