46.4 cm x 38.7 cm (18 1/4 in. x 15 1/4 in.)
Henry F. Farny
(Ribeauville, France, 1847 - 1916, Cincinnati, Ohio)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on millboard
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of C.R. Smith, 1971
Sitting Bull, the renowned chief of the Lakota Sioux, achieved fame by defeating General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. As a spiritual and political leader for Sioux tribes, he led the Sioux resistance against the U.S. government from the 1860s until his death in 1890. Henry F. Farny painted this portrait of the tribal leader based on a photograph in which the chief wore a single feather in his hair and a simple cotton shirt. Here, rather than depict the chief modestly, Farny painted Sitting Bull in full headdress, complete with horns and a hatchet. Farny often took the warring tribes of the northern Plains as his subject, and this painting is a demonstration of the artist’s familiarity with traditional Sioux garb and iconography. In 1881, after Farny spent months living with the Sioux in North Dakota, members of the tribe assigned him an emblem so they could recognize his paintings: a circle with a dot in the middle, which can be found with the artist’s signature in the lower right corner of the work.