6 x 8"
oil on panel
When I began listing works of art I'd like to feature portraying the American Spirit, I remembered this exquisite painting in Crystal Bridges titled The Indian and the Lily by George de Forest Brush, done in 1887. It's one of the many pieces in the museum that knocked my socks off. It is so intimate in size, so beautifully painted, so tender, a glimpse of a moment in the life of a Native American Indian.
A little bit about the artist, George de Forest Brush - born in Tennessee, raised in Brooklyn and Darien, Connecticut, he trained in New York then later in Paris under the brilliant artist Jean-Leon Gerome. Gerome is one of my personal favorites and I can use the same descriptions of his work - intimate, exquisite, precise realism, glimpses into personal lives. The influence of Gerome is so very evident in Brush's paintings.
After Brush returned to America and in 1882, he ventured west with his brother and found his subject, America's native people. For more than a year he lived among the Arapahoe and Shoshone in Wyoming and the Crow in Montana - creating paintings and etchings of Indians 'far removed from the reality of contempory Indian life'. Brush chose to depict the Indians in a 'timeless environment undisturbed by the advent of the modern'. He resented the rapid industrial revolution and how it negatively affected the Native Americans, instead he desired to portray them in their way of life and their connection to the natural world.
An article I found tied Brush's painting to the story of Narcissus, the perils of seeking an unattainable perfection and the novel Imensee, a story of a man reaching out for a perfect water lily but nearly drowns when he falls into the pond, getting tangled in the roots of this perfect flower. He climbs out of the water, looks back at the water lily floating calmly - a metaphor for the struggle of the Indian tribes maintaining their way of life in a complicated, progressing world.
You should take time to look at more of Brush's amazing paintings. They offer peace and tenderness in these days of anxiety and unrest.