Henry Farny 1847-1916


Henry Farny was born in the contentious Alsace region of France to parents who were part of the failed revolution of 1848. Fleeing to America with his parents, Farny was an exile, a stranger in a strange land, who felt a kinship with the “noble savages” who, when he met them. when they became real people, were strangers in their own land: impoverished, exploited, ignored. As his artistic talent became a vocation, Farny would visit reservations in the West and rail against the official policy of forced resettlement, barren reservations and inadequate rationing. His progressive, egalitarian stance towards Native Americans and his sympathies with their plight grate against the general view at the end of the 19th century that the submission of the Indian was a sad but necessary step in the march to civilization. In 1882, Farny painted illustrations for a series of articles on the Zuni Indians for Century Magazine. Nyutchi, The Old War Chief—Zuni appears to have been part of this project. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Farny’s Indians are unidealized individuals. Nyutchi’s pride is his own, born of his life and sufferings. His stoicism is no ideological pose. His stance is tentative. But the shadow he casts on the pueblo floor, in the shape of a crow or eagle, suggests the strength of his spirit.