Signed and dated, l.r.
Also signed, dated, titled and numbered “Tesuque Reservation – 1948/John Sloan/JS #1002” on the reverse
Tempera and oil on masonite
20 x 24 inches
Ruth Martin, New York
Chapellier Galleries, New York
CIGNA Museum Collection, Philadelphia, since 1981
New York, Salander O’Reilly Galleries, The Ruth Martin Collection of Paintings by John Sloan, March – April 1980, no. 22, illus.
The artist’s diary, October 12-14, 1948, February 22, 1950
The artist’s records, no. 1002
Rowland Elzea, John Sloan’s Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 2, (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991), p. 427, no. 1218, illus.
John Sloan’s diary entry from October 12, 1948 reads: “We went on another painting picnic … we turned into the Tesuque Indian reservation and found a spot along the little Tesuque stream. …Many of the trees are turned gold. We … watched the beautiful Indian ponies and lazy cows … Joe [Bakos] and I took a south eastern view with the Sangre de Cristo range in the background.”
By Valerie Ann Leeds
The reputation of John Sloan was founded upon his association with The Eight and as a reporter-illustrator; however, a notable portion of his oeuvre was devoted to subjects of the Southwest, one of which is Tesuque Reservation.
At the suggestion of his close friend and colleague Robert Henri, who had had two extended visits there in 1916 and 1917, Sloan made a pilgrimage to Santa Fe. The Sloans set out by car along with artist Randall Davey and his wife in 1919 driving cross-country. It was to be the beginning of Sloan’s long and close association with the region. He purchased a house in Santa Fe the following year and visited annually, with the exception of one year, until 1950.
The Southwest proved to be important for Sloan and he had a palpable response to the region in his work, as he observed, “The desert landscape with its ancient geometrical formation was of profound inspiration to me in a new chapter of work. I was carrying on ideas assimilated from the study of the post-impressionists in the New Mexico landscape.”(1) Sloan executed a wide variety of subjects while in the Southwest, but his landscapes especially reflect modernist tendencies in the reductive approach to form, as seen in Tesuque Reservation. The landscapes are also more interpretive and emphasize the particular geometry and horizontality of the topography. Remarking on the landscape, he observed:
Nature out here in New Mexico is as grand that to be satisfied with the mere bones of the landscape is arrogance…When I look at these age-old hills, thrust up from the earth, noble nature, I feel humble. In painting landscape I try to understand the sculptural entity of place. I analyze the color into the prevailing under-colors on which the descriptive textural incidents occur. Texture is form on a smaller scale. I like to use texture as a point of departure for graphic finish.(2)
Sloan’s lifelong adherence to the theorist Hardesty Maratta’s pseudo-scientific approach to color and composition is readily apparent in the sumptuous variegated coloration of the hills, sky, and foliage of this painting and many of the Southwestern works. He was prolific and achieved great competence in a variety of media; a skilled draftsman, Sloan was also an accomplished printmaker as well as working in oil and tempera. In the case of this painting, it is unusual in his combined use of tempera and oil.
Sloan was an experimental artist and by the mid 1930s, he became dissatisfied with his traditional methods and embraced a new approach to form that emphasized plasticity by means of a copiously textured surface. Most often he applied this to figurative subjects, especially nudes, but he also used it in landscapes as is evident in the fine dark hatched lines seen across the surface in Tesuque Reservation. Though attempting to locate a new and more modern approach, Sloan’s work never deviated far from an essentially realist approach. In Tesuque Reservation, he astutely captures the distinctive Southwestern terrain of the nearby Tesuque Reservation, a picturesque locale he repeatedly pictured in numerous compositions over the years of his time spent in Santa Fe.
1. John Sloan’s unpublished notes, 1950, as quoted in James Kraft and Helen Farr Sloan, John Sloan in Santa Fe (Exh. cat.: Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1981), p. 31.