Frye Art Museum

photo by Jill Berarducci

Seattle, Washington



Winold Reiss: Native American Portraits

July 21- September 10, 2000


Native American portraits by German-born artist Winold Reiss (1886-1953) graced the covers of collectible American railroad posters and calendars for decades. Hired by the Great Northern Railway to promote the West, Reiss was one of America's earliest painters to portray Native Americans in realistic, rather than stereotypical portraits. Dozens of these brilliantly colored and engaging portraits are on view at the Frye July 21 through Sept. 10, 2000.

Reiss dreamed of dedicating his artistic career to painting Native Americans. Born in Germany, Reiss studied under his father, the well-respected artist Fritz Reiss, and later he studied at the Munich Academy. After immigrating to the United States in 1913, he found outlets for his talent as a muralist and a decorative arts designer. He also became known for his meticulous portraits of other minority groups: Afro-, Asian-, and Mexican-Americans, both male and female. With few preconceptions, he detailed their character, often in lively costumes.

Winold spent a major part of his productive career living and painting among the Blackfeet Confederacy, in Montana. He contributed work to the railway for over 20 years, while continuing his portrait painting. He opened a school at Glacier National Park, Montana, and taught there and in New York for many years before his death in 1953. The Blackfeet Indians became his closest friends and at the end of his life, his ashes were scattered over the Blackfeet reservation in Montana. (left: Jim Blood, 1931, pastel and tempera on Whatman, 30 x 22 inches)

Over thirty of Reiss' finest Native American portraits will be displayed. Costumes worn by his subjects were often an important decorative element in his work, providing insight into the character and traditions of the ethnic group. The exhibition is organized by the Frye and drawn from the Reiss family, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and a number of private and public collections.

Read about Fritz Winold Reiss in the C. M. Russell Museum website.

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Frye Art Museum.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/18/11

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