Land of Sunshine Image - Land of Sunshine Cover

Cover page

(A Little Maid of Moqui in her dance dress)
[Note: Frontispiece - ZY-YOU-WA]
C. M. Davis Eng. Co.
From painting by E. A. Burbank


Art is long - and artists are often quite the reverse. But being short of money is not half so pernicious as being short of wit; and the ground-floor difficulty of too many American painters is that they are sheep-like, whose most acute sense is that of following. A shadow could just as easily get up and walk away from the man who casts it, as some of them could strike out for themselves. A politician goes to conventions only once a year or so; but some painters go to the conventions at the outset and never get back. Having achieved some recognition - their key to the doors of success - they promptly fall in behind the procession of anemic ambitions who flock abroad to paint the South of France about half as well as a Frenchman of precisely the same endowment can do it - because he understands the country, and they do not. They are enough limited in their styles; but their worst handicap is their almost utter lack of originality in theme. They reproduce, world without end, the old tired landscapes, the overworked figures and faces, to which they can give nothing new save each the little transparent varnish of his individuality. Doubtless if some philanthropist would assemble in some vast gallery a classified exhibit of the poverty of artists in subject - all the Spring and Reverie and Sunset pictures; all the guesswork landscapes and taxidermist portraits all the usual art product of our painters, each sort in a hall by itself - doubtless people would begin to realize the ghastly sameness, the imitation, the lack of originality, which mark the profession. There would be thousands of each class - thousands of the same sort of landscapes, thousands of the same sort of faces. You could tell tother from which, it is true. Even in the same pod, the peas are really distinguishable, if you look hard enough. But the striking thing about the whole exhibition would be the deadly poverty of invention, the apparent inability to find subjects which had not been worn threadbare. Yet this is not a particularly monotonous world, if the artists would but see it.

And the artists who do see it are at once distinguished amid the ruck. They stand far above the drifters and imitators who paint as well but cannot see anything new to paint. As a rule, too, the men who have this sense and originality have uncommon ability as well.

Everyone knows that Remington is famous and successful because he found a new field. Everyone knows that F. S. Church, and Bierstadt, and Moran, and such men, came to greatness by turning away from the imitative flock. It is well enough understood that Thos. Hills $25,000 Yosemite picture would not have fetched so much if he had painted in its stead the usual theme.

The West has enough wonders of earth and sky, enough picturesque types of man and beast, to keep all the painters alive busy for a century. They could be so parceled out over that vast area as never to tread on one anothers toes and they could all get something new every time.

It is a common complaint among artists that the public is afraid to buy anything too new. This is partly true but it is as much the fault of the artist-crowd as of the public. If the artists would go to painting fresh subjects, the public would get accustomed to the idea, and would favor it. One reason why there is no keener general interest in painting is that it is so monotonous.

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. E. A. BURBANK Photo, by C. F. L.

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. NI-YANG-I-MANA, A YOUNG MARRIED WOMAN OF MOQUI From painting by E. A. Burbank

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. SHU-PE-LA, OF MOQUI From painting by E. A. Burbank

Among the younger men who have succeeded in part because they chose each a field for himself, and were competent to exploit it, B. A. Burbank ranks as one of the strongest. Aside from his very unusual technical ability, he has been wise enough to pre-empt a field which everyone else had not painted a foot deep. He became very favorably known by his portraits of darkies; and a Burbank cullud pusson is a good possession in any gallery.

But it was logical that Mr. Burbanks specialization should arrive at persons of another color. He is a nephew of Edward E. Ayer of Chicago, first president of the Field Columbian Museum, a trustee of the Newberry Library) and collector and owner of the finest private library of Indian Americana in this country. This fine type of a self-made American, a graduate of the rough Frontier, who applies his wealth to the forwarding of scholarship (for his superb collection is accessible to scholars), is as shrewd as enthusiastic in his hobby. Realizing that the human document is no less important than the parchment record, and is being lost, torn and blotted quite as fast; and having at hand so competent a conservator of such things, it was to be expected that Mr. Ayer would enlist his nephew in a work so necessary a complement of the library. The transfer of Mr. Burbanks activities from the Americanized Senegambian to the original American has been a distinct gain all around. Art is the better for it; since the Indian is quite as picturesque as the Negro, and more forceful if less quaint; and science and history are seriously under obligation to the superb series of portraits already made, and in all probability to be greatly increased. Mr. Burbank has already painted some hundreds of Indian portraits, and is rapidly adding to his catalogue. He has already covered a large range, ethnographically - Apaches, Pueblos, Sioux, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Osages, and many other tribes. He has in general selected very characteristic types and his portraits are done with rigorous exactness. He nothing extenuates, nor sets down aught in malice. He neither idealizes nor blinks. From our personal point of view his pictures are harsh - not retouched as we demand our artists to flatter us, but uncompromising as a photograph made in strong sunlight. Popularly, this may give a mistaken impression; for many will forget that one chief reason why an Indian is so much more furrowed and ugly than we are is because he has no retoucher to make him pretty. But scientifically this insistence upon the lines in which life indexes character, is very important.

Mr. Burbank preserves not only the facial type with extraordinary fidelity and sympathy; his portraits are as well a graphic and accurate record of the characteristic costumes, tribal and ceremonial. This is an uncommon service, not only to the future hut to the present. The vast majority of our painters and illustrators seem to have neither sense nor conscience about this matter. They are as apt to dress a Pueblo in a Pawnee warriors dress, or a Kiowa in ancient Aztec costume, as anything else and still more certain to confound the faces. It would not be quite so ridiculous to portray Quakers in cowboy garb, or Yankees with the physiognomy of Italians. But they do it, right along, and never seem to feel that they they are either stupid or mendacious. Even Remington has never succeeded in seeing past the first Indians who were impressed on him, and has northern warpath faces for every tribe - some of whom look as much like his Sioux as a Dutch farmer resembles a Kentucky moonshiner.

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. HE-SEE-O, A WOMAN OF ZUNI From painting by E. A. Burbank

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. TLI-ICHNA-PA, A NAVAJO WOMAN From painting by E. A. Burbank

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. QUANG, A MOQUI MAIDEN From painting by E. A. Burbank

It is a peculiar merit of Mr. Burbanks art and conscience that he sees these vital differentiations and regards them. He is by odds the most successful thus far of all who have attempted Indian portraiture. His work has historic truth and value for which we seek in vain, from Catlin down to date, for a parallel. As Lungren is doing the best and truest work yet done on the Southwestern arid landscapes and atmospheres, so Burbank is easily master of Indian faces. Many of his portraits are widely known by the admirable color-type reproductions of them which have been issued by a Chicago house a collection almost as interesting to the art-lover and the layman as to the historian or ethnologist.

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. TJA-YO-NI, A NAVAJO CHIEF From painting by E. A. Burbank

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. KO-PE-LEY, A MOQUI SNAKE PRIEST From painting by E. A. Burbank

C. M. Davis Eng. Co. IT-SAY-YA, ZUNI From painting by E. A. Burbank

Mr. Burbank was born in Harvard, IL, and began his art training in the old Academy of Design, Chicago, in 1874. He studied in Munich from 1886 to 1892. Admirably grounded in character portraiture by his long and highly successful studies of Negro types, he presently turned westward and began on Indians in Oklahoma, thence working northwest into the Sioux, Cheyenne and Nez Perce country. Later he traveled much among the Southwestern Apaches, Navajos and Pueblo stocks - particularly the Moquis, Zunis and Queres - and again among the Southern Cheyennes, the Arapahoes, Osages, Ogallalla Sioux, and so on. He has painted most of the more famous chiefs - Geronimo, the last Apache genius, many times - and a great store of typical men, women and children. Without the least disparagement to the art of Brush, Farny, Remington, and others, and not forgetting the powerful sculptures of Proctor, Kemeys, Boyle, Dallin and MacNeil, it is entirely within bounds to say that no one has at all rivaled Burbank as a historical painter of Indians. And as he is a young man still, we have a right to expect of him a great increase in his lead. He has taken up, barely in time - for all the Indianness of the First Americans is disappearing wonderfully fast - one of the least hackneyed, most picturesque and most important fields possible to American art. And he has proved, very emphatically, his entire competence to dominate it.

Incidentally, one reason why Mr. Burbank can paint Indians lies back of his fingers, and was not learned in the art schools. He can not only see but understand. They are to him not merely line and color, but human character. More ignorant people, who fancy that aborigines are not quite men and women, might be enlightened - if anything can enlighten them - by talk with this unassuming painter. His ethnologic horizon is not scientifically exhaustive; but he has got far enough to understand the fact of human nature - and this is much deeper in wisdom than many who pass for scientists, and write monographs of large words, ever wade. One could make a very interesting story of Burbanks experiences and impressions in this career of painting Indians; a superficial acquaintance, in one way, but enabled by unspoiled eyes to arrive at the foundations of comprehension. C. F. L.