Howard Terpning, our featured artist, often referred to as the "Storyteller of the Native American People", has concentrated his award-filled career on painting pictures about some of the Great Plains tribes: Blackfeet, Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Comanche and Apache. Terpning is intimately familiar with the details of their lives, from facial bone structure to everyday dress, from ceremonies to the rhythms of community life. Terpning's paintings cover the Plains Indian's "glory days" of the early nineteenth century up to their final, desperate demise: the extinction of the buffalo and the displacement and disease of the tribes as a result of the westward expansion of the white man.
His paintings not only tell a story, they pull the viewer into the emotional life of the individuals portrayed. There are moments of peace, humor, pride, hard-won wisdom, young defiance and fear. The viewer feels the cold, the hunger and the desperate poverty of hunters when the great buffalo herds are extinct.
"I want to show them as people who were not always at battle but as people who raised children, made love, cooked meals, hunted buffalo. Theirs was a life on the move," says Terpning, "always looking for fresh grass, for buffalo. Today we tend to romanticize it, but in reality it was a hard life. The thing that makes it appealing, however, is that it was such a free existence."
Terpning is most proud of praise from Native Americans today. At a recent art exhibition a Cheyenne woman stopped him to say ....
just want to touch you,
are the only one
who perceives our people __
as we __
Indisputably one of the foremost artists working today, Howard Terpning has won all the highest prizes in Western art: countless awards from the Cowboy Artists of America, the Hubbard Art Award for Excellence, the National Academy of Western Art's Prix de West (twice), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gene Autry Museum, and the Eiteljorg Award for Excellence in American Western Art. His paintings hang in the permanent collection of major art museums including the Gilcrease Museum, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Phoenix Art Museum, and now... the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis.
Born in Illinois and educated at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the American Academy of Art, Howard Terpning first gained attention for his powerful magazine cover illustrations and for his eighty-three movie poster illustrations.
In 1976, he walked away from a successful illustration career to pursue his dream of chronicling the Native American people. Within two short years he became one of the giants in his field.
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