A Proud People

western-art-Howard-Terpning-Captured-PoniesThe year 2012 is shaping up to be an incredible one for Howard Terpning and the art collectors who admire his work.

At the Scottsdale Art Auction, held on March 31, Howard Terpning broke his all-time auction record with Captured Ponies, which hammered in at $1.7 million. Roughly a hundred lots earlier, the crowd thought the record had been surpassed when Mystic Power of the War Shield hammered in at $1.5 million. Terpning first broke the million-dollar mark when The Search for the Renegades sold for a $1.3 million bid at Coeur d’Alene Art Auction in 2006.

But the lucky few who walked away with a Terpning painting that day will not be the only fans dealt a special treat this year. Through July 1, the Autry National Center in Los Angeles will feature a dynamic retrospective of Terpning paintings. “The Autry show is incredible because the vast majority of Terpning’s artwork is in private collections, so it’s a unique opportunity to view his works,” says Wendy Wentworth, of Greenwich Workshop Press.

The last time collectors were treated to a Terpning retrospective was a one-month show at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis in 2001.

To coincide with the Autry show, Greenwich Workshop Press has released a book written by Howard’s artist friend, Harley Brown (see p. 61), called Terpning: Tribute to the Plains People. Inside, collectors share why they appreciate and respect Terpning’s portrayals of the Plains Indians, which particularly favor the late 18th-century period when their culture thrived with horses and buffalo.

“For us, it’s the combination of dignity and pathos that he incorporates into his images of the Native American,” notes collector Alan F. Horn, “images that communicate strength, honor, beauty, and freedom—values that we like to think reflect, even today, the best of America. They tell stories of a time gone by and of a people conquered (yes) but not diminished, a people in harmony with our earth, in a time of their own.”

In his artworks, Terpning makes a point not to portray battle scenes or violence. “I’d rather put my focus on the people than on the action for its own sake,” says the artist, whose Marine experience in WWII and as a combat artist in Vietnam has colored the compassion he feels for the struggles faced by Plains Indians.

The truest statement about collecting Terpning was shared by the CEO of ENSCO, Carl Thorne, and his wife, Rosella. John Geraghty, the Autry trustee who put together this year’s exhibit, once told them, “You will find living with one of his paintings a rewarding lifetime experience.”

Collectors earned more than $13.3 million from the sale of their Terpnings and other art at the Scottsdale Art Auction.

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