Description: WINOLD REISS
"CHIEF BUFFALO HIDE"; "BOB RIDING HORSE AND CHIEF SHOT BOTH SIDES"; "MIKE LITTLE DOG" (TRIPTYCH)
Each gouache on illustration board
30 3/8 x 23 1/4 in. (77.2 x 59.1cm)
30 3/8 x 28 3/4 in. (77.2 x 73cm)
30 3/8 x 23 1/4 in. (77.2 x 59.1cm)
Given by the above to Mr. Otto Baumgarten, New York, New York.
Acquired from the above by Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Rollinson.
By descent in the family.
Private Collection, North Carolina.
Winold Reiss was born in Karlsruhe, Germany and educated at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Munich under Franz Stuck, as well as at the Kunstgewerbeschule under Julius Diez. In the early 20th century, much of Europe was quickly modernizing, and the dominant German artistic movement being taught was Jugendstil, or "youth style", considered the German equivalent of the French Art Nouveau. This style did not firmly delineate between fine art and design; it emphasized bold lines, bright colors, flat surfaces, and various design motifs integrated into works of fine art. Reiss adeptly melded this modernist sense of style and design into his skillfully rendered portraits of Native Americans, as seen in the present work. The artist possessed an affinity for Native American culture, particularly because of his close relationship with the members of the Blackfoot Reservation near Glacier National Park in Montana. Living alongside the Blackfoot from 1927-1928, he was given the Indian name of "Beaver Child" and honorably accepted into the tribe, an extremely rare accolade for a white man. According to Professor Jeffery C. Stewart, Reiss was intent on using his work to prove the monumental relevance and integral nature of the American Indian in American history as a whole, regardless of the rapidly industrializing and modernizing society. Unlike other artists of this time such as Seth Eastman and Charles Russell, who chose to depict Native Americans as a romantic vision of a past and disappearing nation, Reiss resisted this inclination and instead chose to insert his sitters into Jugendstil-inspired environs.
Reiss originally created these works as studies for a mosaic mural slated to be installed in the Chrysler Building in New York City, rendering this triptych in full color and fine detail. Similarly, his studies for other commissions, such as the mosaic which came to fruition and is in the Cincinnati Union Terminal, were executed as closely to the finished product as possible, so the client could actively visualize them as they would look when complete. Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 caused the Chrysler commission to be cancelled due to financial constraints, and the mosaic was never completed. Nevertheless, each sitter is identifiable and each of them was depicted more than once by Reiss throughout his career. In 1927 Reiss painted another portrait of Chief Buffalo Hide, who is represented in the left panel. Only photographs remain of this portrait, which shows clear gridlines on the canvas, suggesting that Reiss intended to transfer the smaller image into a larger format for the mosaic mural. The two figures in the middle panel, Bob Riding Horse and Chief Shot Both Sides, are rendered in the present studies in exactly the same way as they are in two other oil paintings executed in Glacier National Park in 1928. These two paintings are illustrated in Jeffery Stewart''s book Winold Reiss: An Illustrated Checklist of His Portraits (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian, 1990) on pages 84 and 87. Similarly, another version of the portrait of Mike Little Dog (also known as Emetagna, seen in the right-hand panel) is documented in photographs of an oil portrait that has remained unlocated. Interestingly, Reiss completed an actual mosaic of Mike Little Dog which exists in the collection of the Wolfsonian Foundation in Miami, Florida.
These works are of substantial historical significance, exhibiting Reiss''s overlapping position as both fine artist and portraitist with his role as a modernist interior designer. Created during the late 1920s, they are the first located examples of Reiss''s Native American portrait studies for commercial design projects. Other projects include murals in several restaurants in New York City, Chicago''s Apollo Theatre and the South Sea Island Ballroom in Hotel Sherman (both 1921), the Woolaroc Museum in Oklahoma (1946) and the Santa Fe Railroad Ticket office in Kansas City, Missouri (1951).
Condition Report: Overall, this lot is in very good to excellent condition with no evidence of which we are aware of any restoration. Slight imperfections, mostly located in the unpainted very outer margins are minor and essentially unobtrusive.
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Left panel - in fine overall condition with rich, fresh colors. Slight hue variations in parts of the very outer unpainted borders of work suggests that there may be some pale toning, as outer portions of unpainted top/bottom edges of the board are slightly lighter in color than the rest of the unpainted borders. The small cluster of unpainted specks at upper center contained within the painted white area does not, in our opinion, represent paint loss. Instead, these unpainted small areas are left unpainted by Reiss's design. There is some very slight upward curling of the very outer surface layer of the board at outer edges in the unpainted borders - not in the painted areas. There is a thin, slight, unobtrusive linear surface cut at bottom margin, far right, in the unpainted outer border - not touching the painted area
Center panel - in fine overall condition with rich, fresh colors. Slight hue variations in parts of the outer unpainted borders of work suggests that there may be some pale toning. There is a slight lifting of the very outer edge of the board with associated slight breakage of the very outer layer of the board - all in the very outer unpainted border at outer right edge, in the lower half of the work (there is no lifting of the surface of the board or any breakage to the outer surface of the board in any of the painted areas). In portions of the teepees, there are some slight hue imperfections that are visible. These imperfections may be original and may not represent condition defects. They include: very slight pale brownish discoloration in specific, localized areas in parts of the center panel of the center teepee (which is unpainted), and a similar pale brownish small area of discoloration to an area at part of the unpainted teepee at far right. Also to teepee at far right, between the two lowest horizontal painted color bands, there is a very slight, almost imperceptible thin, linear surface mar - origin unknown - which is horizontal, minor and whitish in color. There are some slight whitish specks, and some approximately pinhead size reddish specks visible to parts of the teepees
Right panel - in fine overall condition with rich, fresh colors. Slight hue variations in parts of the outer unpainted borders of work suggests that there may be some pale toning. There is some slight lifting of the very outer edge of the board in parts of the unpainted outer borders, as is the case with the outer left and center panels of this lot. There are two small punctures to the outer edges of the lower left unpainted border, one small puncture to the outer edge of the top unpainted border, and one small puncture to the outer edge of the right unpainted border.
(2) 38 x 31 in.
(1) 37 3/4 x 36 1/2 in.
Descriptions provided in both printed and on-line catalogue formats do not include condition reports. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Interested bidders are strongly encouraged to request a condition report on any lots upon which they intend to bid, prior to placing a bid. All transactions are governed by Freeman's Conditions of Sale.