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A copy of the May, 1921 sales receipt will accompany the lot.

According to Dixon scholar and author Donald J. Hagerty, “In July 1917, the Great Northern Railway, through the efforts of Foster and Kleiser, the large San Francisco advertising company which Maynard Dixon had joined the year before, approached him with an offer to paint in Glacier National Park and the adjacent Blackfeet Reservation, the railroad’s premier tourist destinations. The railroad envisioned some of Dixon’s artwork would be used as part of their ‘See America First’ campaign and others used as promotional posters for distribution in California. Dixon, eager to escape the aftermath of a recent divorce quickly accepted the overture. He then wrote to Frank B. Hoffman, a painter and illustrator he had known while working in New York from 1907 to 1912. Hoffman, already working for the Great Northern in Glacier, readily agreed. Familiar with the park’s backcountry, he would serve as a guide. The railroad arranged for the Park Saddle Horse Company to provide a packer and trail boss.

“Accompanied by his seven-year old daughter Constance, Dixon arrived in Glacier in mid-August 1917. Dixon and his entourage explored Glacier’s dramatic alpine views and stopping to visit Charles M. Russell at his lodge on Lake McDonald. By late September, the group moved on to the Blackfeet Reservation, pitching their camp among the lodges of six Blackfeet families on the north fork of Cut Bank Creek where the flanks of Glacier National Park meet the rolling prairie. There they were welcomed by Owen Heavy Breast, Curly Bear, Two Guns White Calf, Lazy Bear, and others who sang, told stories and served as models for his paintings. Some could still recall their life in the waning days of the northern plains horse and buffalo culture. At the encampment, Dixon worked furiously, energized by the hospitality of his hosts. A keen and compassionate observer he roamed the camp sketching people engaged in daily activities, ceremonies, and the camp itself. At times, he took solitary rides for miles over the open prairie, reveling in the infinite space and clarity of Big Sky country. However, snow and biting cold arrived in early October forcing Dixon and Constance to return to San Francisco. Constance recalled years later that she was heartbroken to leave. ‘I wanted to stay and become an Indian.’

“During his two month stay at Glacier and the Blackfeet reservation, Dixon created numerous small oil sketches and drawings, templates for larger works which he would do in his San Francisco studio. For a number of years after his visit, Montana, and particularly Blackfeet subjects continued to echo in his memory and influence his art. Among them was Prairie Evening, painted in 1919. Two Blackfeet men converse in front of a tipi, while a saddle horse waits patiently nearby, the painting suffused with the saffron glow of an early Montana evening. Dixon used a vigorous post-impressionist painting style, anchored by an organized, structured arrangement on the canvas as he probed the ancient and contemporary rhythms of Blackfeet lives. With bold brushstrokes, strong color patterns and an overall decorative and structural feel the painting shows his transformation from a literal and illustrative approach to something more abstract and spiritual, a new template in his art that bridged his passionate interest in Indian cultures and selective aspects of modern art. Although held captive by the myth and romantic spell of the ‘Old West,’ he knew that the “old campfires” were flickering out and a New West arriving with the automobile and tourism. The Blackfeet were not immune. Owen Heavy Breast, who became a good friend of Dixon, supervised a crew building a road between Glacier and St. Mary’s. For Dixon, Blackfeet native arts, religion, and design offered inspiration as he wrestled with modern art styles blowing in from Europe. Skeptical of these art movements he nonetheless strived to create a new framework for his paintings, a simplified realism which touched upon abstraction and space division. Dixon never returned to Montana but his experiences among the Blackfeet helped shape his artistic journey in the decade of the 1920s.”

The Artist
Albert Salzbrenner, New York, NY
James J. Schock, Tulsa, OK, 1921
Present owner, by descent, 1972

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