Henry Farny was born in 1847 in Alsace, France. His family fled to America in 1853 as political refugees. They moved to Warren, Pennsylvania where Farny first met Native Americans. This sparked a lifelong fascination with their people and culture.
Henry Farny was among the first artists to make a career of painting Plains Indians. Unlike some, Farny tended to favor a romantic realism rather than sensationalism or straight romance.
Farny made his way up the river and to Bismarck, North Dakota. Sitting Bull had surrendered himself to the American military and Farny had hoped to meet the famed leader and learn more about the Ghost Dance movement. During his visit, Henry Farny was able to sketch what he saw of the Ghost Dance and the Sioux Nation.
During Farny’s other trips out west, he would collect Native American artifacts. His collection grew so large and diverse that he was able to paint any subject he wanted without needing to step outside his studio. However, he continued to travel and met Native Americans.
While Farny presented his subjects in a slightly nostalgic light, he avoided the drama that other painters of this genre are known for. His light is dynamic, poses are natural, and there is a sense of documentary detail. Henry Farny truly wished to capture these cultures, down to the minor details.