John Quincy Adams Ward (American, 1830–1910)
16 1/8 x 10 1/2 x 15 1/4 in. (41 x 26.7 x 38.7 cm)
Morris K. Jesup Fund, 1973 (1973.257)
The Indian Hunter marks a pivotal moment in Ward's career and in the history of American sculpture in its rejection of Neoclassical tenets in favor of an unbridled naturalism. A lithe young Native American leans forward in stealthy stride, eyes focused on his prey. He restrains an eager, wolfish-looking dog with his right hand while grasping a bow and arrow in his left. In selecting this American theme, Ward was answering a widespread call in the 1850s and 1860s for American subjects produced by American artists. In The Indian Hunter, Ward successfully imparted directness and naturalism by relying on the tactile and expressive qualities of bronze. The variation in texture speaks volumes for the quick progress of the American bronze-casting industry from its infancy in the early 1850s. The polish of the figure's skin is in marked contrast to the roughness of the dog's coat and the animal pelt. However realistic, The Indian Hunter's indebtedness to classical sculpture is also evident. Ward's most direct source for the hunter's pose is the marble Borghese Warrior (Musée du Louvre, Paris).
The Museum's bronze is one of some fourteen statuettes that Ward cast after the original Indian Hunter model over the course of his career. Ward also enlarged his model, making compositional refinements based on a trip to the Dakotas to observe Native American life. The over-lifesize bronze was dedicated in New York's Central Park in 1869, the first American sculptureand the first of four pieces by Wardto be erected there.