Painters of the American West: O'Keeffe, Dixon, Couse, Fechin, and Farney
The American West has become an area of specialized interest for collectors and art buyers all over the world, and has been increasing in popularity for over 100 years. This hub features 5 influential Western Artists of the 20th century:
- Georgia O'Keeffe
- Maynard Dixon
- Eanger Irving Couse
- Nicolai Fechin
- Henry Farny
These artists made significant contributions to the Western Art Scene in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these artists added something new or left a strong, signature style in the Western art world.
If you enjoy reading this hub, please read my other hub, Influential 19th Century Artists of the American West.
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Georgia O'Keeffe may be the most well-recognized of the artists in this article, as well as the only woman featured. Her paintings have a distinctive signature style and subject matter. Much of her most famous work includes colorful depictions of botanical subjects, such as flowers.
Georgia O'Keefe is considered to be part of the second wave of Taos, New Mexico painters. The artist colony in Taos was started by Edward Blumenschein and Bert G. Phillips, with a significant body of painting coming from the Taos Society of Artists, and later artists who flocked to Taos when it became a recognized center for American Western art. O'Keefe's work is a significant departure from the idealized depictions of the American West created by earlier Western genre artists. Her style is distinctly modern, and sometimes abstract, but almost always employs bold swaths of color in sweeping brushstrokes.
Much of O'Keeffe's painting was done in Taos, New Mexico. Taos hosts a Georgia O'Keefe Museum, and her work is featured prominently in other New Mexico art museums. Her work is featured in at least 89 museums across the United States.
Georgia O'Keeffe Artwork
Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955)
Nicholai Fechin was a Russian-born portrait artist who lived in Taos artist colony before 1933. According to writer David C. Hunt, whose article appears at the Taos Art Museum website, Fechin's best works were considered to be portraits of Indians and New Mexico landscapes.
Fechin was born in Kazan, Russia in 1881, and classically trained as an artist in Europe. His artwork uses impressionistic brush-strokes but exhibits some qualities of representational artwork. Primarily known as a portrait artist, Fechin's subjects included a broad and diverse range of people, from Russian Opera Singers to New Mexico Indians. Fechin himself never staged his subjects using props. He tried to depict them in settings that were natural and realistic. Even though his work was impressionistic, it's intent was not to display a romanticized portrait of the American West or its inhabitants. Fechin's desire to depict realistic scenes marks a movement away from the mythic works of artists like Remington, Russell, and Bierstadt, who all represented the West as a sort of Eden.
Fechin moved to New York, and then Taos, New Mexico when civil unrest in Russia created problems for him at home. He maintained ties with his homeland and never quite felt at home in Taos, where the language barrier made it difficult for him to communicate with American artists. His Taos home is now the site of the Taos Art Museum and is a very beautiful whitewashed adobe structure.
Nicolai Fechin Artwork
Henry Farny (1847-1916)
Henry Farny was a French-born artist whose parents immigrated to the United States. His work is highly detailed, and his Native American portraits focus on the Indian as an individual. Like the work of Couse, Henry Farny's paintings tend to show the peaceful qualities of Native Americans. Few of his works show action scenes.
Like Remington, Farny made his living as an illustrator for magazines. Farny was also a sculpter and a potter. He produced bronze sculptures, pottery, and many paintings. Farny's work is especially highly prized by art collectors.
Henry Farny Artwork
Maynard Dixon (1875-1946)
Maynard Dixon, like Georgia O'keefe developed a distinctive style that made his art depicting Western scenes iconic in the eyes of Western Art collectors. At more than one art reception I've heard a statement like "Wow, those clouds look like they belong in a Maynard Dixon painting." I have to admit that I made that statement a time or two myself.
Maynard Dixon painted landscapes and scenes depicting human subjects. The landscapes are notable for their huge skies and billowing clouds. Dixon's distinctive clouds, hallmark blue skies, and minimal, early 20th century modernist landscapes are distinctively recognizable.
Dixon worked in a wide range of mediums, including gouache, oils, watercolor, charcoal, mixed media, crayon, pastels, charcoal, graphite, and pen and ink. His work is featured in 28 museums. Dixon has a namesake museum in Tucson, Arizona, where he passed away in 1946.
The Brigham Young University Museum of Art has a collection of Maynard Dixon artwork as part of its permanent collection. Utah claims Maynard Dixon as one of its Utah artists, though Dixon himself spent his latter years in Tucson.
Maynard Dixon Artwork
Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936)
Part of the first wave of Taos Artists, Eanger Couse was known for depicting Native Americans as peaceful, dignfied humans, instead of war-mongering savages. Representing Native Americans in this way represented a shift from the stereotypes created during the 19th century by other representational artists who often depicted Native American on horseback in shootouts with the calvalry.
Couse, whose last name rhymes with "house" worked in oils, watercolor, charcoal, mixed media, and etching. His work had an impressionistic quality but was also considered representational. His portraits often depicted Native American people at work in domestic situations. Couse depicted a kinder, gentler American West.