Thomas Nygard Gallery - 19th and 20th Century American Art



Charles H.

(1867 - 1934)

The sculptural work of Charles Humphriss tends towards Native American ritual subjects in which the artist is dedicated to portraying what he believed was a more truthful representation of the American Indian.  In striking contrast to the commonly portrayed image at the time of the ‘savage’, his work sought to celebrate the more peaceful and spiritual nature of these majestic people.


Humphriss was born in England in 1867, but immigrated to the United States and by the late 19th century was living in Pleasanton, NY.  As an established artist he kept a studio in New York City, where he became a member of the National Sculptor Society and the Society of Independent Artists.  During his time, Humphriss’ sculptures were exhibited at the New York Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco where he won an award.  Humphriss died at the age of 65 in New York in 1934.


Indian Chief is one such bronze that serves as a celebration of the Native American.  In it, Humphriss depicts a Native American chief not as a blood thirsty savage, but as a proud and almost stately leader.  Like many of the major equestrian bronzes and monuments of our nations great leaders, Humphriss has portrayed his Indian chief with an aura of dignity and power that is expressed through his control over the powerful animal on which he sits.  The regal nature of this rider is only improved upon by his stern gaze, which not only penetrates the viewer, but looks passed them as if on to some more important matter.


Furthermore, Indian Chief is an excellent representation of Humphriss’ artistic ability.  The cleanliness of his lines, accuracy in anatomical rendition of both horse and rider, and commitment to choice details such as the chiefs moccasins and headdress, all give the bronze a great degree of elegance.


The Indian Chief is one of his rarer works; to our knowledge this is the only such work available on the open market, and has been for the past 10, possibly 20, years.  The only other casting of this work to our knowledge is a 49 inch edition in the collection of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK.

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