Laverne Nelson Black
Laverne Nelson Black
Oil on Canvas
28 x 32 inches
Signed Lower Left
An illustrator, painter and sculptor, Laverne Nelson Black did not receive recognition for his scenes of the American Southwest until late in his career. Black was born to a Viola, Wisconsin hotelkeeper in 1887. His frequent childhood companions were Indians from a nearby reservation. Largely self-taught, Black began to draw and paint as a boy, using vegetable juices, earths and red keel, a soft stone the Indiansthemselves used in ceremonial decoration.
In 1906, the family moved to Chicago, where Black enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He won a scholar ship there for his second and final year of formal training. He became a commercial artist and illustrator in Chicago and, for a time, in New York City. He vacationed on Western ranches and reservations, to sketch, paint and sculpt.
Accurate in chacterization, the artist worked in an impressionistic style in the early 1900s, ahead of the trend. His pictures and sculptures of the life and landscapes of the West are broad in execution, capturing the essential realism without including distracting detail. He typically worked in loose strokes of brush or palette knife, laying in blocks of warm color. He worked from life whenever possible. In the early 1920s, his small bronze action sculptures of mounted cowboys and Indians were the first to be shown after Frederic Remington's at Tiffany's, New York City jewelers.
Ill health led Black to move with his family to Taos, New Mexico. There he did some of his best work, using as subjects local pueblo architecture, Indians, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. His work attracted buyers, among them the Santa Fe Railroad. Still in poor health, Black moved to Phoenix, Arizona in the 1930s. There the Public Works Administration commissioned him to paint four murals for the post office, depicting scenes of Arizona's heritage, including pioneers, the Pony Express, and cattle and mining activities. Shortly after completing them in 1938, Black became terminally ill; somebelieve he contracted paint poisoning. He died in Chicago that year.
Phoenix Post Office Building, Arizona
Treasury Department Building, Washington, D.C.
Stark Museum of Arts, Orange, Texas