1898 - 1957
oil on canvas, circa 1925
signed and on verso inscribed indistinctly
46 1/4 x 36 in, 117.5 x 91.4 cm
Estimate: $0 - $0 CAD
Preview at: Heffel Calgary - 220 Manning Road NE, Unit 1080
Private Collection, Alberta
Wilfred Langdon Kihn was an American illustrator and portrait painter, best known for his depictions of Canadian and American aboriginals. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1989, Kihn studied at the Art Students League of New York from 1916 to 1917. Following in the footsteps of his instructor Winold Reiss, an accomplished portraitist, in 1920 Kihn traveled west to paint First Nations life. He was awestruck by the ceremonial activities and dress he saw, and he sought to create documentary images of the culture he perceived to be at risk. Between 1920 and 1937, Kihn would take numerous trips to the western United States and Canada, and he forged relationships with the Laguna and Acoma tribes in New Mexico and various Blackfoot and Stoney tribes in Montana and Alberta.
Kihn’s Indian Days depicts the Banff festival of the same name, and this image was used on multiple Canadian Pacific Railway promotional posters in the 1920s. The festival, held annually from the early 1900s through the 1970s, was a major attraction in the CPR’s campaign to attract tourism to the Rocky Mountains. In close proximity to the CPR Banff Springs Hotel, members of the Morley tribe (Stoney nation) held a parade, a pow-wow and various sporting events. As Kihn depicts in vivid colour, the festival was a celebration and spectacle, rather than a display of authentic contemporary First Nations life. The figures in Indian Days wear a combination of traditional dress, western garb and even a few striped Hudson’s Bay wool blankets. Kihn’s fluorescent palette and bold blocks of colour translated well to the CPR silkscreen posters, which are themselves collectables today.
In addition to the CPR poster, Kihn illustrated a number of books, including Indian Days in the Canadian Rockies by accomplished ethnologist Marius Barbeau (1923). Kihn lived the majority of his life in Connecticut, and passed away in 1957 at the age of 59.
Estimate: $0 - $0 CAD
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