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A Sioux Camp is an outstanding example of Farny’s work and demonstrates his brilliance both as a landscape painter and historian as he pictures the starkness of the Dakota Territory. In many of his most successful paintings, Farny employed a progression of horizontal planes to achieve a sense of receding depth. The figures in the foreground anchor the painting, with a line of teepees and trees in the middle foreground, and a horizontal line of mountains in the distance. The sparse landscape and the quiet solitude of the plains are expertly captured in this composition.

Farny made several trips to the West in his pursuit of knowledge of the tribes of the American frontier. He learned two Indian languages and was adopted by the Senecas, the Sioux, the Blackfeet, and the Zuni. Throughout his career he had remarkable encounters with historical figures and events: Farny introduced Sitting Bull to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1883, he sketched Geronimo, and he witnessed firsthand the Ghost Dance of the Sioux.

Farny’s paintings were not glorified images of the Wild West. Instead, he created intimate, realistic depictions of Native Americans, their customs, and their disappearing way of life.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “The nation owes you [Farny] a great debt. It does not realize now, but it will someday. You are preserving for future generations phases of American history that are rapidly passing away.”

The artist
Harry S. Leyman, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1901
Private collection, by descent

Henry F. Farny and the American Indian, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1943

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