Last weekend, I took a trip up to LA to see a couple of amazing shows: a retrospective of work by Howard Terpning and an exhibit of pieces by Edgar Payne.

The Terpning show was completely overwhelming. It included 92 pieces painted over a span of 30 years, most of them quite large. Terpning is one of the most lauded painters of the American west, and for good reason. Not only is his technique incredible, he also has a profound understanding and respect for his subject. Terpning’s focus is on the Native peoples of the Great Plains: the Blackfoot, Crow, Lakota, and other tribes.

a few of my favorites:

Howard Terpning - Cheyenne at the Disappearing Creek Called 'White Woman'

Cheyenne at the Disappearing Creek Called ‘White Woman’

I thought this painting was pretty amazing. Terpning prefers to paint on a toned canvas and works wet paint over dry. I assumed that he would always tone his canvases with a neutral or warm brown color, but this one appeared to be toned with a cool green. Bits of the toned canvas were left to show through in certain areas. Terpning actually started this painting with only the three middle figures on horseback included in the scene but decided that the composition was not right. To make the two main figures less central, he added the horse and Indian in the lower left. I was amazed that Terpning leaves so much of the final composition to be solved on the canvas, especially considering the amount of research and planning that must go into making one of these paintings. I guess you can just do that kind of thing when you’re a master.

I also thought this one was amazing:

Hope Springs Eternal - Ghost Dance Howard Terpning

Hope Springs Eternal – Ghost Dance

Terpning is an amazing painter of fringe. I was so struck by the movement of the fringe in this painting that a snuck a couple of photographs with my cell phone. I only managed a few before a guard came over to chastise me:

Hope Springs Eternal - Ghost Dance, detail

Hope Springs Eternal – Ghost Dance, detail. Look at that fringe!

Hope Springs Eternal - Ghost Dance, detail

Hope Springs Eternal – Ghost Dance, detail. Howard Terpning: Painter of Fringe.

Getting a wag of the finger for illicit cell phone pictures always makes me feel a bit rebellious. I took one more of this incredible portrait just to stick it to the man:

The Skeptic - Howard Terpning

The Skeptic

Look at that feather! It’s incredible! Terpning is a great portrait painter. I love the expression on this man’s face.

okay, one more painting:

Howard Terpning - Talking Robe

Talking Robe

I know Terpning is best known for pieces that are a bid more epic, but some of my favorites were a bit more intimate. This single figure portrait was pretty stunning. And, despite how relatively simple it might appear when compared to some of Terpning’s larger works, it is still minutely researched and carefully constructed. Every aspect of this man’s appearance and dress has significance.

While at the show, I took the opportunity to buy the book. It is well worth having. The reproductions are good, the pictures are big, and there are about 30 more pieces included than appeared at the show. I highly recommend it as well as the show itself.

I think Edgar Payne is going to have to wait for his own post. That show was also incredible and a real revelation to me. More on that later.

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