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According to Dixon scholar and author, Linda Jones Gibbs, Ph.D., “In the summer of 1909 Maynard Dixon left San Francisco at the urging of Charles Moody, a doctor working with the Indian Agency in Sandpoint, Idaho. An admirer of Dixon’s work, Moody invited the artist to see the region and paint among the Plains Indians. It had been only three years since the San Francisco earthquake had devastated Dixon’s studio and he was not only seeking to rebuild his portfolio but also solace for his dampened spirit.

“Dixon arrived in Coeur d’Alene in late June, spending time among the Nez Perce and Kootenai Indians. By late summer, he was painting at St. Ignatius, a mission founded in 1854 at the base of the mountains on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The landscape and atmosphere of western Montana with its endless green and brown undulating prairies was very different from the arid Southwest where he had previously traveled. Describing Montana, which had received statehood only twenty years earlier, Dixon wrote that it seemed ‘old as the world, yet created only this morning.’

“In St. Ignatius, Dixon completed numerous small scale plein air paintings of local Flathead Indians. The work he produced on this trip remains some of his earliest extant finished paintings. Among them is this important and rare portrait of a seated young Indian woman. Identified by name, Kla-at-la, she wears a traditional buckskin dress, which along with the robe laying to her side, is embellished with colorful beading of turquoise, white and reds. Her braided hair, the style worn by females after adolescence, is adorned with matching beadwork.

“During this period, Dixon’s works took on an impressionist style, evidenced here in the brightly lit background constructed with loose brush strokes and flickering pastel hues. The greens and blues on the sleeves and torso of the Indian’s dress are echoed in the colorful field behind her. Dixon dramatically divides the pictorial space with a strong shadow which cuts diagonally across the picture plane, the thrust of which is anchored by the figure’s vertical configuration. The horizon line is high with only a strip of trees and hint of sky, this composition allows for a backdrop of animated color and brushwork that contrasts with the subject’s solid form seated in repose.”

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