Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Art Review - "Father and Daughter at the Crow Fair" by Bettina Steinke - National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Last week, Kimberly and I visited the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum to view the current Prix de West exhibition. While there are a number of wonderful paintings throughout the museum, one piece stood out for me above all the others, so I wanted to share it for this week's #MuseumTourTuesday.

Bettina Steinke was once the resident artist at NBC, creating portraits of stars. In 1939, she left the studio and painted portraits of notable Americans, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower. After traveling the world for a decade with her photo-journalist husband, Don Blair, the couple settled in Taos, New Mexico in 1956. In 1995, she received a lifetime achievement award from the National Cowboy Museum, and in 1996 received the John Singer Sargent Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society of Portrait Artists.

This piece below won the Prix de West Purchase Award in 1978. I was immediately struck by the simplification of shapes throughout the painting - notice the lack of eyes on the father in the upper right. This simplification reaches an almost graphic quality in the blanket at the bottom of the painting. The forms are all solid, without any unnecessary rendering. Also notice the thinness of the background in comparison to the thicker paint within the figures, adding depth and bringing the figures forward.

Also of note is the bold cropping. The painting is all about the young girl, and the horse is suggested only by the small portion of the head and ear visible to the lower right. The father is pushed to the upper right, his headdress breaking the bounds of the picture and acting more as a frame for the daughter's face than his own. A truly wonderful composition.
"Father and Daughter at the Crow Fair" • Bettina Steinke • Oil on Canvas • 1978

Painting photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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