from the Washington Post

The Beaux-Arts Indians of George Brush
By Paul Richard
Special to The Washington Post, Wednesday, September 24, 2008; C01

In 1882, when young George de Forest Brush — who was born in 1854 or ’55 (the records disagree) and died in 1941 — rode into the West, he wasn’t an ethnographer or a champion of the underdog or a traveling reporter or any kind of cowboy. He was a painter with a purpose, a Paris-trained professional seeking subjects for his art.

He knew what he was looking for. The figures he was seeking would be thrillingly exotic, distinctively American, conveniently unclothed. Indians would do fine. Those in Brush’s paintings have all the right accessories (beadwork on their moccasins, silver-studded belts, stone arrowheads, canoes), but they aren’t convincing Indians. That’s because they’re stand-ins. Brush looked on them as “actors.” They are stand-ins for the youths he meant to show us all along, the figures of the Renaissance, the gods of Greece and Rome.

This is the painting the impressionists warned us against: French academic art.

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