Indian and Frenchman

* Nearly 20,000 images of artworks the museum believes to be in the public domain are available to download on this site. Other images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. By using any of these images you agree to LACMA's Terms of Use.

Indian and Frenchman

United States, circa 1956-1957
Sculpture
Bronze, mounted on wood
14 3/4 x 12 1/4 x 3 1/4 in. (37.47 x 31.12 x 8.26 cm)
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Franklin D. Murphy (M.80.143)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

One of Thomas Hart Benton’s late mural commissions was Jacques Cartier Discovers the Indians, 1956-57, for the Power Authority of the State of New York at Massena near Niagara Falls....
One of Thomas Hart Benton’s late mural commissions was Jacques Cartier Discovers the Indians, 1956-57, for the Power Authority of the State of New York at Massena near Niagara Falls. In this painting Benton described the moment when the sixteenth-century French discover of the Saint Lawrence River, Jacques Cartier, is presented with gifts by people from the Seneca nation. Around 1919 Benton began to make it a practice to construct three-dimensional clay models of scenes he intended to paint. The bronze Indian and Frenchman was cast from the clay models of the mural’s central figures. Dr. Franklin Murphy, a friend of Benton’s and former chancellor of the University of Kansas, was instrumental in having the bronze cast. During a visit to Benton’s studio in the mid-1950s Murphy came across the clay models for the two figures, which Benton reluctantly allowed Murphy to have cast. The clay model was destroyed after an edition of three was cast by Eldon Teft, University of Kansas.
More...

About The Era

Four years after the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the New Deal, a program of domestic reform meant to revive the econ...
Four years after the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the New Deal, a program of domestic reform meant to revive the economy and alleviate the problem of mass unemployment. Toward these ends, he established various new federal agencies, putting many more people to work to do the increased business of government. Thousands of artists were employed, most through the largest program, the Works Progress Administration. Although the government did not dictate the type of art that was to be produced, it did encourage the use of a representational style and American themes. As a result, most of the art created in the decade prior to World War II was humanistic in orientation.
Artists, writers, and philosophers of the period became obsessed with the social relevance of art. Although a small group of American artists did attack the societal ills of the nation (housing shortages, unemployment) and of the world in general (the rise of fascism and militarism), most adopted a more pragmatic and even positive attitude. American scene painters captured busy city dwellers on streets, in buses, at work, and at play. Occasionally artists infused an element of humor into the pathos of everyday existence, even in scenes that allude to the political disasters of the day. Regionalists were particularly fond of idealizing the past and aggrandizing the present accomplishments of the country. In fact, the myth of America as a country where everyone lives a pastoral, carefree existence emerged with new vigor in the art of the 1930s.
The diversity of the people also emerged as a strong current of social realism. Artists who were accustomed to working in their studios now looked beyond their immediate circles for models. Individuals of various races, professions, or creeds inspired some of the most moving portraits of the century and demonstrated the soul of the people.
More...

Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.