Born: Shelbyville, Tennessee 1855
Died: Hanover, New Hampshire 1941
“The poet of the Indian painters,” figure painter.
Brush attended the National Academy from 1871 to 1874, then along with Abbott Thayer, studied with Gerome in Paris until 1880. On his return he went West and into Canada, a contemporary of Remington and Russell. From 1882 to 1886 he lived in Crow, Sioux, and Mandan villages. He became a serious participant in the Indian crafts and traditions. The West was just changing: “In 1880, thousands of buffalo darkened the rolling plains. In the fall of 1883, there was hardly a buffalo remaining on the range” in Montana. Brush wrote, “Every one who goes far West sees Indians as dark-skinned tramps, their old people blind and dirty.” He painted “the world of the Indian before the white man came,” an idealized Indian that never was.
The paintings brought wide acclaim but did not sell. “Among the Indians of the northland, Brush may have found braves who would trop to gather water lilies on their way home from the hunt, but the manner would seem better suited for the portrayal of Greeks in their period of highest culture.” Brush went back to Europe in 1890 and “from the Florentine learned how to paint his American madonnas,” using his wife and children as subjects. These paintings had a ready market. Brush taught at the Art Students League, and developed the concept of camouflaging warships in an 1898 suggestion to the Navy. Like Inness or Thayer, he was regarded as the epitome of the art of the turn of the century, less exciting than Matisse just as a “lady” is less exciting than a “vitriol-throwing suffragette.”
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing