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American Indian Myths Created Through the Art of Rookwood and Farny
Sketch for “The Return of the Raiders”, Unknown date, Henry Farny, Gift of Fanny Bryce Lehmer, 1936.853. Image courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum.


CINCINNATI.-This fall, visitors to the Cincinnati Art Museum will discover how Cincinnati helped shape the myth of American Indian culture through its painting and pottery. Vanishing Frontier: Rookwood, Farny and the American Indian presents a rarely-seen Rookwood pottery collection, Native American artifacts and works by Cincinnati artist Henry Farny –the greatest storyteller of the American West. Vanishing Frontier: Rookwood, Farny and the American Indian will remain on view through Jan. 20.

“What the American public probably thought about the Indian’s way of life in the 19th century was skewed by these artists’ interpretations,” said Anita Ellis, deputy director for curatorial affairs. “This exhibition addresses the myths that most whites accepted and offers a more realistic look into Native American culture.”

This exhibition will include 52 ceramic portraits on vases, plaques and mugs from the James J. Gardner Collection of Rookwood. Also included are 40 works by Henry Farny and over 35 American Indian artifacts from the Art Museum’s permanent collection.

The portraits in this Rookwood collection attempt to convey the sense of loss and resistance the artists thought American Indians were experiencing as their way of life was changing. Although these artists worked from original photographs of American Indians, they enhanced the portraits with objects such as jewelry or feathers –to better fit the familiar national stereotypes of Plains Indians.

“Visitors will see a different side of Rookwood pottery through the works in this exhibition,” said Ellis. “While the images are remarkable in quality, they reflect an idealized and romantic view of American Indians.”

Featured works include Loving Cup: Geronimo (1898), which depicts a somber face of Geronimo, considered one of the fiercest American Indians. He was also the subject of many books in the early 1900s and later became a well-known figure associated with the Wild West. One of the finest examples of the technical difficulty involved in ceramic art can be seen in Vase: Bloody Mouth (1899).

Also included in the exhibition are 40 works depicting American Indian life by the Cincinnati artist Henry Farny, spanning 1881 to 1916, the year of his death. Farny responded to a growing market of the American public eager to purchase Indian inspired art and imagery. He created works from his active imagination such as The Ford (1899), which depicts several American Indians as free and nomadic in an exquisite Western landscape, when indeed they were losing their traditional way of life.

Although the works seen in the exhibition were created by American artists, authentic American Indian artifacts from the Art Museum’s permanent collection will present visitors with real objects from the Indians’ everyday lives. Featured works include a Great Plains eagle feather war bonnet, an Eastern Woodland tomahawk pipe and a Cheyenne tobacco bag.

Two catalogs will further introduce visitors to the art featured in this exhibition. Rookwood and the American Indian: Masterpieces of American Art Pottery from the James J. Gardner Collection showcases the 52 ceramic pieces, each accompanied by its source photograph. A brief biography of each artist as well as essays by the co-curators Anita J. Ellis and Susan Labry Meyn are included. Henry Farny Paints the Far West examines Farny’s work from both an aesthetic and ethnographic perspective. The catalog focuses on Farny’s gouaches and watercolors, as well as new information on the artist and his techniques.

The presenting sponsor for Vanishing Frontier: Rookwood, Farny and the American Indian is the Castellini Foundation. Education programs are sponsored by Chase. The media sponsor is Time Warner Cable Media Sales. Contributing sponsors include The Farmer Family Foundation, The Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation, The Wyeth Endowment for American Art and Friends of the Cincinnati Art Museum. Additional support is provided from Skip Merten and The Merten Company. The Art Museum also thanks the Henry Luce Foundation for supporting ongoing research of Cincinnati's artistic heritage.

Tickets for Vanishing Frontier: Rookwood, Farny and the American Indian are $8 for adults; $6 for seniors and college students; $4 for children 17 and under; Art Museum members are free. Visitors can also enhance their exhibition experience through programming.





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January 2, 2008

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