Although his portraits of Native Americans—young faces with flawless skin, and old faces with deep canyons of wrinkles—are quite popular among collectors, R. Brownell McGrew’s elaborately composed group scenes are equally impressive, and also quite rare. He staged his subjects, often Navajo figures, with intricate placement, almost like human still life, tableaus of the desert’s first and final inhabitants. One must leave Western art entirely to find an artist who made comparable work: French painter Georges Seurat, whose iconic A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte fills the scene with carefully arranged figures in an outdoor setting. Seurat was famously working in pointillism and impressionism, and McGrew worked in a stylized Western realism with hints of impressionism, but the compositional intricacy among many figures can be seen in both artists’ works. This painting, which has had only one owner, also adds another prominent feature in McGrew’s work—children, which the artist painted in hundreds of images. A former illustrator who worked in Hollywood for a brief period, McGrew wanted his work to have a wet look, which he achieved by mixing oil paint with linseed oil and turpentine.
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Please note that the first unframed photo is most accurate for color. Framed photographs are to show the frame and are not color corrected to the painting.
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