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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: With Bonhams & Butterfields, San Francisco, 8 October 1980. With Bonhams & Butterfields, San Francisco, 17 March 1982. With Bonhams, San Francisco, 25 January 2015.
Reproductions: 8 October 1980 sale catalog 3117, lot 321; 17 March 1982 sale catalog 3192, lot 185; Early California and Western Art Research/Schafer slide #54 (color, 1980); 25 January 2015 sale catalog 22375, lot 3070
Site: Probably a northern California encampment of the Modoc people 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 Indian camps in the desert all have similar compositions. 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] (Bonhams & Butterfields 1980 sale catalog); [Sioux Indian encampment] (Bonhams & Butterfields 1982 sale catalogs); [Sioux camp, winter sunset] (Early California and Western Art Research index)

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Feb 13, 2017, 11:05 MST