The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

the twentieth century's most popular modernist artists. Her life attracted atten-
tion, and it is not surprising that her death has also caused notice. With the
settlement of the O'Keeffe estate perhaps the final chapters have now been
written. But the O'Keeffe myth is a strong one. The public's need for a roman-
tic figure who lives outside and beyond conventional life no doubt will ensure
that the story of Georgia O'Keefle is told again.
University of Texas at Austin BECKY DUVAL REESE
Gary Nzblett: A New Look at the Old West. By Mary Terrence McKay. (Loveland,
Colo.: Action Press in association with Fenn Galleries, Santa Fe, N.M.,
199o. Pp. 95, Notes, color plates. $45.)
This book on southwestern artist Gary Niblett attempts to do three things. It
documents Niblett's extensive roots in the Southwest, especially Texas and New
Mexico; it explains what is art about cowboy art; and it portrays a western artist
who, in painting scenes of Polish peasants, is attempting to transcend his west-
ern roots and express himself as more than a regionalist painter. Niblett, as
Mary Terrence McKay points out in this well-written book, is first and foremost a
genre painter whose subjects may or may not be taken from the western past.
Despite the fact that he is a past president of the Cowboy Artists of America,
whose major museum headquarters is in Kerrvllle, Texas, Niblett, like contem-
porary Indian artists, clearly wishes to be known as an artist first and a regional
or tribal person second; hence, his Polish paintings.
McKay examines Niblett's work as a genre painter-one who portrays scenes
of ordinary life- in some depth. She points up his initial debt to western artist
Frank Tenney Johnson and to Hanna Barbera Studies, but she is most fasci-
nated with his relationship to the Dutch genre painters of the seventeenth cen-
tury-especially Abraham Bloemart's Shepherd and Shepherdess (1627), Gerard
Dou's Girl Choppzng Onions (1646), and Karel Dujardin's Young Woman Mzlkzng a
Red Cow (c. I650). Though cowboy artists generally divide between history
painters and genre painters, few would probably recognize their antecedents in
Young Woman Mzlking a Red Cow in the seventeenth century. For hard-bitten,
tough, trail-riding artists, this must surely be a sobering thought-though per-
haps not as shocking as their relationship to their Ash Can School cousins in
early nineteenth-century New York, which McKay carefully conceals in her
footnotes. This is a clever book in that it takes cowboy art very seriously from
an art-historical point of view. Usually cowboy artists are dismissed as nostalgic
documentarians who over-romanticize the frontier days when men still had
some "bark" left.
In the end, McKay forces us to consider genre itself with Niblett's work as
"Exhibit A." His genre pictures represent an emotion frozen in time. Some of
the best of these moments reproduced in this beautiful book are Gold Fever (a
prospector staring longingly at a distant mesa), Blackfoot Warning (mountain
men in a state of alarm), Midnzght Delay (a fascinating nocturne), and The Texans
Charge at Gloretlta Pass (a military history painting that also catches a glimpse of
high excitement). The Polish paintings demonstrate Niblett's increasing skill in

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed July 13, 2014.