Robert Henri 1865-1929
- Robert Henri
- Young Buck of the Tesuque Pueblo
- signed Robert Henri and inscribed To my Friend Capt. Dan Stevens, l.l.; also inscribed Robert Henri and Young Buck of the Tesuque Pueblo on the reverse
- oil on canvas
- 24 by 20 in.
- (61.0 by 50.8 cm)
- Painted in 1916.
Coe Kerr Gallery, New York
Mrs. Pony Ault, Toronto, Canada
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Private collection, Texas (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 27, 1999, lot 36, illustrated in color)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale
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Valerie Leeds, author of Robert Henri in Santa Fe: His Work and Influence, writes: "Best known as the organizer of The Eight exhibition in 1908, Robert Henri was also a dedicated teacher, exhibition organizer, artist advocate, and a prolific painter of portrait types, which he called 'My People.' Because of his activities, summer sojourns away from New York City were his most productive seasons for painting when free from other responsibilities. He continually sought out new destinations in which he could find interesting and authentic subjects and Santa Fe became an important inspiration for his work. He returned there for three extended visits in 1916, 1917, and 1922, during which he produced a sizable body of work depicting the regional inhabitants including Young Buck of Tesuque Pueblo, which dates to his first visit.
"After first spying Santa Fe from the train while traveling to California in the summer of 1914, Henri vowed to return there. Santa Fe attracted his interest for its physical allure, warm dry climate, and multicultural environment composed of Hispanic, Native, and Anglo populations that offered him a variety of subjects to paint. Among his objectives was to find Native American models, as he noted in one of a number of communications: "I look forward to a season of work in Santa Fe with great enthusiasm ... I hope this will prove to be only a first season for .... Santa Fe may be the place for me ... I am sure there are people, children, and Indians I shall want to paint and who will be willing to be painted" (Henri to Edgar L. Hewett, 15 July 1916).
"Henri arrived in Santa Fe on July 25th 1916 for the first time and remained for an extended visit until October 13th. Initially he had trouble finding Native American sitters as the pueblos and their inhabitants were situated out of town. He found the nearby Tesuque Pueblo, located about nine miles north of the city, to be a source of models, including the subject of this portrait. The Tesuque Pueblo is relatively small in size and is one of the more traditional pueblos in its ceremonial observances and is particularly known for its dances. Founded about 1250, its name can be translated as "Village of the Narrow Place of Cottonwood Trees" and its inhabitants are of the Tewa ethnic group. William Vigil, the model for Young Buck of the Tesuque Pueblo, was the first Native American in Santa Fe to pose for Henri and became the most frequent model of the 1916 trip. He painted fourteen portraits of William Vigil that first season—more than any other subject that visit. This portrait is the fourth Henri painted of Vigil and it is notable for its sensitive portrayal of the young man's poise and stoicism.
"Particularly in the Native American portraits painted during his first season in Santa Fe, Henri was emphasizing their unique culture through colorful costume and presentation. In most all of Vigil's likenesses, he wears the red and white headscarf tied about his head. A number of the paintings of Native Americans, both male and female, are cloaked in colorful Native blankets, as in the boldly patterned textile seen in Young Buck of Tesuque. In these paintings of 1916, Henri was also pursuing his ongoing investigation of color and compositional theories as seen in the vivid and unusual juxtaposition of colors and the suggestion of an underlying geometric design of bisecting angles typified by Young Buck of Tesuque.
"Henri's Southwestern portraiture extends beyond the stereotypical ethnographic likeness; his quest for models was qualified by his search for authenticity and the representation of type, and he attempted to invest each portrait with the individual character of the model, as he later asserted:
'I was not interested in these people to sentimentalize over them, to mourn ... the Indian.... I am looking at each individual with the eager hope of finding there something of the dignity of life.... I only want to find whatever of the great spirit there is in the Southwest. If I can hold it on my canvas I am satisfied" (The Art Spirit, 1923, p. 148).
"Henri had great expectations for Santa Fe as a stimulating environment for painting, and as he became attuned to the exceptional artistic opportunities afforded by the region, he thrived there, producing some of his most adventurous likenesses including Young Buck of Tesuque."