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Upper Reach of the Wind River

1927
Origin: America, Washington, near Carson
Unframed: 20" x 33 3/8" and Framed: 21 1/2" x 34 3/4" x 1 3/8"
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1957.102.3
A mountainous wilderness scene featuring rushing rapids split by rocks in the middle ground; towards the [viewer's] right is a small waterfall. The immediately surrounding slopes appear scarred, with burnt snags still standing but with new vegetation emerging beneath them. A mountain appears in the background beyond the rapids, part of a more distant range that continues at the left. A black bear stands erect in the middle ground on the right side of the rapids. At the far right, in the foreground, a white-tailed buck faces the bear, with droplets of his snorting breath visible in front of his nose. In the left foreground, a doe also looks at the bear; behind her, nestled in a cavity in the bank, are two spotted fawns. An eagle perches on a branch of a dead tree on each side of the stream.
The 1-inch flat, black-painted frame probably was added by Knoedler's, AARFAM's source.
Label:Among landscape painters, Steve Harley was unusual in showing a fire-ravaged area. The mottled, erect snags (dead trees) are the remains of a stand of Douglas fir, with possible additions of western hemlock and western red cedar. Forestry specialists estimate that the scene was painted some 20-30 years after the fire, which could have been started by humans but also could have resulted from a lightning strike. Regardless, the mood of the picture is not one of destruction but of regeneration. Thriving new growth illustrates Nature's resilience, as does the return of its wildlife. The colorful scene of recovery must have given Harley hope for the future.
The artist's reverence for Nature lacked sentimentality. He recorded the interaction between prey and predator (deer and bear) with equanimity, favoring neither and giving no hint of the outcome of their encounter. His keen powers of observation and careful attention to detail also have enabled botanists to identify a number of plants in the picture, including a vine maple (Acer Circinatum) to the left of the fawns and sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) at the lower right, near the buck.




Provenance:From the artist to Robert Lowry (1919-1994); to an unidentified dealer; to M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY. [See letter from Elizabeth Clare of Knoedler's of Oct. 8, 1958].

Inscription(s):Written on the reverse of the canvas in blue paint is "Uper Reache of Wind River Wash./14, m. N. E. of Carson, (NOTED TROUT STREAM,)/Cascade Natl, Reserve./Taken July 3, 1927./Painted By S. W. Harley."