Lot 2

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LAVERNE NELSON BLACK (American 1887-1938)
A Festive Indian Encampment
Oil on artist board
Signed lower right
16.5 inches x 23 inches
Estimate:  $40,000 - 60,000   € 36,800 - 55,200
Price Realized: $68,750.00


These showrooms, November 19, 2014, Lot 633

Born in Viola, Wisconsin, Laverne Nelson Black (1887 – 1938) became a painter and sculptor of western genre. His style combined Impressionism and Modernism, and he did not receive much attention for his work during his lifetime but was much appreciated later for his pictorial record of western life.

He was the son of an innkeeper, and often played with Indian boys from the local Kickapoo reservation. From these experiences, he acquired great interest in Indian legends and traditions, which he began painting on his own, using natural materials such as berry juices for paints. His family sold their hotel business and moved to Chicago where he received his only formal training at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts from 1906-1908. He worked as an illustrator for Minneapolis and Chicago newspapers, and assignments took him West where he sketched on ranches and Indian reservations.

The focal point of his western travels was Taos, New Mexico, the capital of western painting and the base of operations for an entire generation of famous painters and artists. In 1925, Black moved to Taos, New Mexico where he painted the landscape, Indian culture, and horses, and the Santa Fe Railroad purchased some of his paintings to use in advertisements. On many of his works, he used modernist heavy palette knife applications and created large, loosely brushed blocks of color, but his painting still had close attention to detail. In Taos, he was able to concentrate on Indian subjects, bringing a brushy, jittery style to his depictions.

In 1937, needing money because the Depression years were so difficult, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he and Oscar Berninghaus (1874 – 1952) completed murals for the Post Office building. Black's mural showed vignettes of Arizona from the covered wagon pioneers to the mining period and included the pony express days and the beginning of the cattle industry. His works, though rare, are highly sought after and, consequently, contribute to public and private collections nationally.

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