Henry Francis Farny


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Painter and illustrator. Specializing in the Indian inhabitants of the American West, he offered accurately detailed, sympathetic renditions of their life emphasizing domesticity and harmony with nature. Although he did not sentimentalize his subjects, he generally sidestepped contemporary realities of warfare, disease, and poverty. Sometimes he included clues that point to white intrusion into their territory. Such paintings particularly fed the common late-nineteenth-century perception that Euro-American expansion was destined to extinguish a noble way of life. Farny was born in Ribeauville, in the Alsace region of France. He moved with his family to northwestern Pennsylvania, near Warren, in 1853 and six years later to Cincinnati, which remained his permanent home. There he learned lithography and began working as an illustrator. After a brief stint in New York, he left in 1867 for Europe. For three years he traveled and studied in Rome and Düsseldorf. He returned twice to Europe in the 1870s, on the second occasion traveling with Frank Duveneck to Munich, where he worked for a year. Coming home to Cincinnati in 1876, he resumed his successful career as an illustrator, honing the skills that combined with his European training in a clear, structurally sound, and painterly style. He journeyed west for the first time in 1881 and subsequently traveled there often until 1894. About 1890 he relinquished illustration to paint full time. On trips west, he not only made sketches and notes but also collected Indian artifacts and photographs to facilitate the verisimilitude of his studio creations.

Subjects: Art.

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