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Frederick Ferdinand Schafer Painting Catalog

Painting record FFSd0280

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[photo] [Indian camp in Winter 1]

Medium: oil on canvas
Size: 20 x 36 in (51 x 91 cm)
Inscription: l/r "F. Schafer", in the artist's block-letter hand, underlined
Provenance: Sold 8 October 1890 for $1900 + 10% by Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco, as lot 321 in sale 3117. Sold 17 March 1982 for $1700+10% by Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco, as lot 185 in sale 3192. Sold 25 January 2015 for $1200+25% by Bonhams, San Francisco, as lot 3070 in sale 22375.
Reproductions: Butterfield & Butterfield 8 October 1980 sale catalog; Early California and Western Art Research/Schafer slide #54 (color, 1980); Butterfield & Butterfield 17 March 1982 sale catalog; Bonhams 25 January 2015 sale catalog.
Site: Unidentified, but based on the topography as well as similar paintings titled by the artist, it is likely that this painting depicts members of the Modoc tribe in the lava beds of Northern California, in the area currently known as Lava Beds National Monument.
Description: A desert scene with low rolling hills in the background. Eight decorated tepees in a camp; the nearest has a signpost in front. In front of each tepee is a campfire which casts a red glow in its door. In the foreground, a woman with her back to the viewer carries a papoose; a child follows. Other figures are in and around the tepees. The bright, blue-grey foreground and the sky, which is filled with a luminescent sunset, contrast with the dark tepees silhouetted against the sky. There is a complete absence of framing elements, emphasizing the openness of the desert and the sky above. (From a color photograph.)
Note: There are several other Indians in desert locales that appear to be closely related, including a few that explicitly mention lava beds in their titles. These paintings of native American camps in the desert all have similar composition. Each includes a "big sky" with the horizon extending from edge to edge and a mountain range so distant that it stands low on the horizon. In addition, these paintings are unusual in that the genre element dominates the landscape (staffage in Schafer's paintings is usually incidental to the landscape rather than the main subject). Finally, in each the underlying landscape appears to be a high-altitude desert such as that found in northern California, eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, Nevada, or Montana, rather than the prairie grassland of Wyoming and points farther east. The Shasta State Historic Park has a 20 x 36 "Indian camp" by Jules Tavernier that is very similar in composition and content to the paintings of this group; another similar Tavernier painting was on display at the Garzoli Gallery in San Rafael, California, in 1989.
Identification: Assigned, descriptive title used in the 2015 sale catalog. This title seems more accurate than earlier assigned titles that suggested that the tribe is Sioux. That suggestion may have been based on the tepee design, which was originated by the Sioux, but by the 1860s that design had been copied by many other western tribes. The Early California and Western Art Research index identifies the slide with the 8 October 1980 sale; it also identifies the same painting as appearing in the 17 March 1982 sale.
Other title(s): [Sioux camp] (Butterfield & Butterfield 1980 sale catalog); [Sioux Indian encampment] (Butterfield & Butterfield 1982 sale catalogs); [Sioux camp, winter sunset] (Early California and Western Art Research index)

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