My all-time favorite work of art by Dallin is his early “Indian Study” from 1888. I received an email from AskArt.com notifying me that one of these just went through auction. I know of three (and this could be the third) of these works in existence. I’m sure there are more – I never fail to be surprised by what appears at auction these days.
This is the work. His dignified stance, the detail in his clothing and hair (hard to see in this shot) is amazing. I like Dallin’s portrayal of the Native Americans in a general sense, but this work really speaks to me. It shows a strength, determination, and dignity that other contemporary artists of the time (Paul Bartlett springs to mind) lack. Compare the above work to Bartlett’s Ghost Dancer if you want to see what I mean by that.
These different portrayals by white artists were not lost on the Native Americans of the time either, I’m sure. Perhaps it was Dallin’s experience that led him to see the Native Americans as people and not “savages.” Dallin interacted with the local Native American tribes when he was a child on the frontier of the Utah Territory as well as when he was a young man traveling to Boston and while he was living in the East. The Algonquin Nation elected him as their representative to Congress. Obviously, the community felt him a worthy representative.
Dallin was very forceful in his opinions about the poor treatment of the aboriginal inhabitants of the United States in every talk that I have ever had the pleasure of reading a transcript of. When I look at this statue, I can hear the echoes of his words. You really need to see this in person – the photos, like any photographic representation of art, do it no justice.
The other two I am aware of are located at the Springville Museum of Art and the Cyrus E. Dallin Museum of Art. If you are in Utah or Massachusetts – please visit and take a look. You’ll be glad you did.