Indian Warrior

Indian Warrior

Indian Chief; Indian Hunter; Indian on Horseback; Equestrian Warrior; Indian Warrior on Horseback

Banner Image: Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior, ca. 1900
Bronze, 39 1/2 in. (height). Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. Purchase with funds provided by the Council of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. 2002.5

The Indian Warrior had its genesis within three quite disparate milieus—one in the far northern, rustic reaches of the Rocky Mountain frontier, another among the scrubbed paddocks of Manhattan’s finest riding clubs and horse stables, and a third among the cosmopolitan community of expatriate American artists in Paris. Not only is it a bold statement about Indian identity and artistic aspiration, but it also embraces lofty international achievement, supreme academic endorsement, and youthful adventure in the American West. The story of the sculpture’s development, which began in the fall of 1895, also highlights the eclectic forces subsumed in the service of Proctor’s fertile artistic vision. Having just completed the second of two monumental horse commissions for Augustus Saint-Gaudens at that time, he was ready for a break. In appreciation of Proctor’s excellent work, Saint-Gaudens had given him a shiny new Mannlicher rifle, and Proctor planned to put his new prized possession to use on a western hunting trip with his friend the New York lawyer Henry Stimson. They headed for the northwest corner of Montana and the area that fifteen years later would become Glacier National Park.

As a side trip, Proctor spent some time on the nearby Blackfeet Reservation. It was there that he made studies of two Blackfeet men and, as he told it, “began a small model of an Indian Warrior, which I later finished in New York and Paris.”[1] One of the portraits, a side view in high relief of a Blackfeet chief named Weasel Head, became the likeness used on the finished equestrian sculpture.[2] For a model for the rider’s horse, Proctor reportedly searched closer to home in New York City. While he was working on his second commission for Saint-

Plate 4.1 — Cyrus Edwin Dallin (1861 – 1944)
Signal of Peace, 1893
Bronze, monumental, Chicago Park District Records: Photographs, Photo 1-199-70C, Special Collections, Chicago Public Library, Chicago, Illinois

Gaudens in the mid-1890s, a friend introduced him to a New York lawyer named Dixon. Dixon retained him to sculpt his favorite horse, an Arabian stallion, which Proctor did with alacrity. Dixon also gave him permission to make a model of another of his horses, one that Proctor acknowledged was “not a thoroughbred,” though nonetheless a fine specimen.[3] The latter horse was done before his Montana trip. When Proctor returned from the West, he combined the Montana Blackfeet rider and Dixon’s second horse into one of his most spectacular works, the Indian Warrior.[4]

In 1894, when Proctor began working on Saint-Gaudens’s General John Logan monument for Grant Park in Chicago, he would have seen another monument that had been dedicated there a few years earlier. It was Cyrus Dallin’s Signal of Peace. A small plaster version of this sculpture, inspired by Dallin’s time amid the set of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Paris in 1889, had already garnered him international fame.[5] When Dallin’s monumental version was unveiled in Chicago in 1893, [Plate 4.1] one critic remembered its smaller counterpart that had been exhibited in the 1890 Paris Salon, remarking that it was the “first distinctive American statue ever exhibited at the Salon.”[6] Proctor would have been impressed, and anxious to join the competition. His own version of the theme, without the reference to amity, was shown eight years later in the same venue, the Paris Salon.[7]

Plate 4.2 — George de Forest Brush (1855 – 1941)
Before the Battle, 1886
Oil on canvas, 14 3/8 x 28 3/4 in., The Rees-Jones Collection, Dallas, Texas

By the time Proctor had completed that version of his Indian Warrior and begun to exhibit it internationally, he would also have come under another powerful influence, one that would possibly have dissuaded him from making any reference to peace in his sculpture of a mounted Indian. That was his friend the painter George de Forest Brush. In 1886, Brush, having recently lived in the West and painted among the Shoshone and Arapaho Indians in Wyoming Territory and the Crow of Montana Territory, had produced one of his early classical, academic masterpieces. Titled Before the Battle, [Plate 4.2] it embodied all the nobility and monumentality of a true homage to the Plains Indians. It was also all about bellicosity rather than concord. Proctor was probably familiar with the painting from his student days in New York when it was displayed at the 1886 annual exhibition of the Society of American Artists.[8] He could also have seen it illustrated in early anthologies of American art, such as George Sheldon’s Book of American Figure Painters (1886) and Recent Ideals of American Art, the latter of which went through several editions in the late 1880s and early 1890s.[9] Brush sold the painting to the famous New Jersey collector of American art William T. Evans. A reviewer for Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, assessing Brush’s work in Sheldon’s first book, referred to “the vigor and precision with which these figures are presented” as going “well beyond the range of ordinary praise.”[10] Proctor would certainly have aspired, when his own art turned to portraying Native people, to share Brush’s “vigor and precision.”

Proctor and Brush were the closest of friends, enjoying many intimate moments together in Paris in the late 1890s. Their families vacationed together a couple of summers on the French coast at Boulogne-sur-Mer, and the two men relished the frequent opportunities to share their mutual experiences in the West among the Native people of the Great Plains.[11] The bonneted figure in Brush’s Before the Battle could have served as much as a model for the mounted warrior in Proctor’s bronze as did the Blackfeet man Weasel Head, who modeled for the figure’s head.

Proctor recorded that when he returned to Paris in 1896 to pursue his Rinehart Scholarship, he packed his model for the Indian Warrior in his belongings. Once he got settled into a new studio on the Boulevard Montparnasse, he not only finished a small, 19-inch version of the piece but also embarked on one twice that size measuring some 39 inches in height. He proudly boasted that over the years he had “sold a good many statuettes of both sizes.”[12] Although Proctor produced about half as many Indian Warriors as Panthers, around twenty-five lifetime casts are known to exist in the two sizes, from five different foundries.

Plate 4.3 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Chief
Wood engraving. Illustration in Chicago Evening Post, 1899. Alexander Phimister Proctor Collection, MS 242, Harold McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming. MS242.OS2.07.01.01

The first completed Indian Warrior was the smaller version, measuring about 20 inches high. It featured a bonneted Plains warrior carrying a spear in his right hand and, over his left forearm, a shield decorated with relief designs (possibly beaded) and two large eagle feathers. The first bronze casting was available in 1898 for exhibition in the Paris Salon.[13] It garnered notice in the American press soon thereafter. One critic grasped immediately the emotional complexity of the piece when he commented how masterfully Proctor had resolved the tension between the “restrained action of the horse” and the “easy unconcern with which the rider sits him.” “The face and the carriage of the man are noble and dignified,” concluded the writer, as if he knew exactly what lessons Proctor had recently learned from Brush and from his mentor, Saint-Gaudens, whose mantra those words reflected.[14] Moreover, the sculpture was an important accomplishment for another reason, as pointed out by the sculptor and art savant Lorado Taft. Proctor’s reputation had up to that point been made essentially as an animalier artist. “The ‘Indian Warrior’ shows us that Mr. Proctor is fully equal to the difficult problem of the human figure,” Taft wrote in 1898. “This admirable group,” he concluded, “is the most important thing which he has thus far given us.”[15] A casting of the bronze that is thought to have made its way to Chicago in the summer of 1898 was mentioned in the Chicago Evening Post. [Plate 4.3] Although an accompanying illustration pictured the warrior with a shield, the article noted a change.

Plate 4.4 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior, ca. 1898
Bronze, 19 1/2 in. (height). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York. Gift of George D. Pratt. 12.898

“In the first model of this spirited figure the chief bore a shield on his left arm which now shows bare and sinewy.”[16] It seems, then, that the shield was probably made optional rather early in the process as patrons were evidently allowed to order the small Indian Warriors with or without the shield. Castings with the shield are quite rare; only three are currently located.

Of those, one was cast by the Thiébaut Frères of Paris around 1898, [Plate 4.4] another by Roman Bronze Works of New York—probably sometime shortly after 1900—and a third by Gorham Co. Founders of Providence after 1913.[17]

A number of the small versions of the Indian Warrior cast in Paris by Thiébaut Frères are known. It can be assumed that these were produced between 1898, when an iteration of Thiébaut Frères (Thiébaut Frères, Fumiere et Gavinot Successors) was established, and late 1900, when Proctor left France for the United States for good.[18] They tend to be exquisite bronzes.

Plate 4.5 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior, ca. 1898
Bronze, 19 1/2 in. (height). Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas. Purchase of the Nelda c. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, 1983.21.11.2

The casting at the Stark Museum of Art is exemplary. Its velvety surface texture reveals the soft tone of a fine sand–cast bronze, [Plate 4.5] its founder’s medallion mark is crisp, [Plate 4.6] and the underpinning is representative of the other Thiébaut Frères Proctor castings. [Plate 4.7]

Plate 4.6 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior (Thiebaut, detail – foundry mark ), ca. 1898
Bronze, 19 1/2 in. (height). Stark Museum of ARt, Orange, Texas. Purchase of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, 1983.21.11.2

During his first stay in Paris, in 1897–98, Proctor rented studio space from the French sculptor Alfred Bouché at 11 Impasse Ronsin. It was there, immediately following his arrival in 1897, that he said he “began work on . . . a three-foot equestrian Indian figure for the Rinehart Scholarship Committee.”[19] When this sculpture was completed is not known. He mentioned that it was cast in bronze (probably by Thiébaut Frères) and submitted as part of a group of works for exhibit in the

Plate 4.7 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior (Thiebaut, detail – underside ), ca. 1898
Bronze, 19 1/2 in. (height). Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas. Purchase of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, 1983.21.11.2

American Pavilion at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900.[20] In his autobiography Proctor notes that he was represented there by “some small animals, a standing puma, and the Indian Warrior I had done for the Rinehart Scholarship. My exhibit received a gold medal.”[21] At some point following the Paris exposition, that large bronze Indian Warrior was shipped to the Baltimore Museum as his “contribution to the Rinehart Prix de Paris Collection.” Sadly, the cast was lost in shipment, and despite Proctor’s later statement that he eventually cast a replacement work in the United States, no record of either casting has appeared.[22]

Other castings of the Indian Warrior have mysteriously disappeared as well. In 1909, Proctor, whose family lived in the Seattle area, donated three bronzes, including an Indian Warrior, to the Washington Art Association, the precursor to the Seattle Art Museum. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer announced Proctor’s gift that year, but the sculptures have never been seen since.[23]

The Indian Warrior made a splash from coast to coast in the United States and beyond during the first decade of the twentieth century. Some version of the Indian Warrior was exhibited in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1900.[24] The large version was shown once in 1901, at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and twice in 1902 at the Century Association in New York City.[25] Then, a casting was again displayed in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, where it won another gold medal.[26] Following those showings, Proctor mounted a major retrospective exhibition of his work in 1908 at the prestigious Montross Gallery on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The exhibition included both versions of the Indian Warrior.[27]

A casting of the large version produced by the bronze foundry Jno. Williams, Inc., of New York was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1909. Proctor had exhibited a dozen bronzes, including his Indian Warrior, in the second annual exhibition of the Canadian Art Club in Toronto during the spring of 1909.[28]

Plate 4.8 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian on Horseback (Indian Warrior), 1898
Bronze, 39 in. (height). Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon. Gift of Mrs. A.L. Mills, Mrs. T.H. Bartlett, Henrietta E. Failing, Mary Forbrush Failing, Mrs. H.C. Cabell, Charles Francis Adams, John C. Ainsworth, William D. Cartwright, and T.B. Wilcox. 11.2

He was a new member of the group and a welcome compatriot, having been born in Canada. Encouragement from that quarter may well have helped his pursuit of placing a major work in the National Gallery, Canada’s premier art museum. The Portland Art Museum in Oregon acquired a similar large version of Indian Warrior in 1911. [Plate 4.8]

In that case, nine Oregon patrons and friends of Proctor collected $750 to see that the Portland Art Museum obtained this elegant work as its first sculpture acquisition.[29] A casting of the small version (unmarked, but cast by the Thiébaut Frères foundry) was donated to the Brooklyn Museum by Proctor’s friend and patron George D. Pratt in 1912. Thus, within just over a dozen years after the first castings of the Indian Warrior arrived in the United States, the work had been widely exhibited in a variety of important venues, and four castings were safely (or unsafely, as in the case of Seattle) ensconced in important museums on the East and West Coasts of the United States and in Canada.[30] Without doubt, the Indian Warrior was the Proctor bronze most sought after by museums, at least in the first decade of the twentieth century.

One or more of the large versions of Indian Warrior may have been cast in Europe, but none has surfaced to date. Proctor started to produce this bronze as sand castings in the United States with Jno. Williams Foundry in the early 1900s. Two castings marked simply “J.W.” are in the collections of the Wilton Public Library, Connecticut (1900) and the R. W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana (ca. 1900). [Plate 4.9]

Plate 4.9 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior (Jno. Williams, detail – underside), 1898
Bronze. R.W. Norton Gallery, Shreveport, Louisiana

Plate 4.10 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior (Jno. Williams, detail – underside), after 1905
Bronze. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. Purchase with funds provided by the Council of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. 2002.5

Jno. Williams incorporated in 1905,[31] and five castings from the newly structured foundry are known to exist. Some of these are clearly marked, as in the case of the National Gallery of Canada’s, which reads “jno williams. inc. / bronze foundry. n.y.” Other castings are unmarked but reveal their foundry through inspection of the underside of the bases. The Amon Carter Museum’s casting, [Plate 4.10] for example, bears no foundry marks but shares a favorable comparison of its underpinning with that of the National Gallery of Canada’s.

Plate 4.11 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior (Gorham, detail – foundry mark), ca. 1918
Bronze. National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Collection, Washington, DC. Museum Purchase. 2014.136.237

Plate 4.12 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Indian Warrior (Gorham, detail – underside), ca. 1916
Bronze. Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming. Gift of A. Phimister Proctor Museum with special thanks to Sandy and Sally Church. 4.08.2

In 1913 Proctor switched to Gorham Co. Founders and continued to produce bronzes with that firm as sand casts. The early Gorham castings are marked “QRM,” with the company’s standard number for that work, but also with a small boxed notice reading “G/[the figure of a she wolf]/C,” which is thought to have been employed by Gorham between 1913 and 1918. This insignia is found on castings belonging to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, [Plate 4.11] the Seattle Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and the collection of Daniel and Mathew Wolf. Gorham castings have a different system of underpinning than Jno. Williams castings, as seen in the underside view of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s casting. [Plate 4.12]

In 1904, Proctor released an abridged version of the work: the horse without the Indian. That year he was elected as a full member of the National Academy of Design in New York. As his required “diploma presentation” for admission to that lofty organization, he sent a casting of the horse with a single rein but no rider.[32] It was reluctantly accepted and might be considered today as a variation of the larger work. [Plate 4.13]

Plate 4.13 — Alexander Phimister Proctor
Horse, 1904
Bronze, 16 in. (height). National Academy Museum, New York, New York / Bridgeman Images

Part of what possibly attracted museums and art expositions to feature or collect Proctor’s Indian Warrior were its classical elegance and ideal, chivalrous presence. For American audiences it was truly iconic, representing characteristics of self-confidence, masculine vigor and valor, bellicosity, mobility, and readiness, all of which symbolized the common perceptions of national identity in the Theodore Roosevelt years. Roosevelt, a lover of the West and a proponent of moral rectitude and nationalist ambitions, was a friend and supporter of Proctor. Both men viewed the West and Indians in similar ways, both agreeing that the Native people of the West were true national symbols.

Such a lofty vision of Native people was not universal, however. Cyrus Dallin certainly did not agree at the time that the Indian represented a belligerent America. Walter Winans, whose sculpture Sioux Indian Chief [Plate 4.14] was shown in the Paris exposition in 1900 and was awarded a silver medal at the same time that Proctor’s Indian Warrior won the gold, favored a more casual, less iconic presentation.

Plate 4.14 — Unknown Photographer
Sioux Indian Chief, 1920
(Walter W. Winnans – b. Russia, 1852 – 1920). Photograph, b&w. McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming

Though armed and adorned similarly to the Indian Warrior, Winans’ portrayal accentuated action and fluid motion, rather than nobility and majestic stature. In another vein, Cyrus Dallin’s monument to defeat, Appeal to the Great Spirit of 1909 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), and James Earl Frasier’s later monument, End of the Trail, [Plate 4.15] featured at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, carried a totally contrary message, that of rejection and downfall.

One sculpture critic would write of the former work that it revealed “the pathos of contrast between two cultures, the lower and the higher, the vanishing and the enduring.”[33] Both Dallin’s work and Frasier’s were symbols of universal shame for the way Indians had been treated and the ways America’s Native cultures were consequently perceived as overpowered and disappearing. In that context, Proctor’s vision was racially nonhierarchical and refreshingly devoid of doomsday prophesies. His message was fundamentally more uplifting for Native people and the nation alike.

Plate 4.15 — James Earle Fraser (1876-1953)
End of the Trail, ca. 1918
Bronze, 33 3/4 in. (height). Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming. Clara Peck Purchase Fund. 112.67


[1] Ebner, Sculptor in Buckskin, 128.

[2] Peter H. Hassrick, Wildlife and Western Heroes: Alexander Phimister Proctor, Sculptor (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum, 2003), 123–24. A plaster casting of Weasel Head is in the Proctor collections of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

[3] Ebner, Sculptor in Buckskin, 125–26.

[4] Despite Proctor’s story, the horse in the Indian Warrior looks remarkably like Ontario, the famous jumping horse that Saint-Gaudens and Proctor had chosen in 1895 for the Sherman Monument. The head, the pose, and the thrust of the horse are hauntingly similar. I am grateful to Sandy Church for this insight.

[5] Rell G. Francis, Cyrus E. Dallin: Let Justice Be Done (Springville, UT: Springville Museum of Art, 1976), 35–40.

[6] “Dallin’s Famous ‘Signal of Peace’ to Stand in Lincoln Park,” Chicago Herald (December 24, 1893).

[7] See Lois Marie Fink, American Art at the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salon (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1990), 382. Proctor would have also seen a bronze casting of the small version of Dallin’s piece in the Art Palace at the World’s Columbian Exposition. See The Official Directory of the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago: W. B. Conkey Co., 1893), 885. This small bronze was considered by critic William A. Coffin as “one of the best things shown by the Americans.” See William A. Coffin, “The Columbian Exposition.—I; Fine Arts: French and American Sculpture,” The Nation (August 3, 1893).

[8] See Nancy K. Anderson, George de Forest Brush: The Indian Paintings (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2008), 148.

[9] George William Sheldon, Book of American Figure Painters (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1886), plate 30; idem, Recent Ideals of American Art: One Hundred and Seventy Five Oil Paintings and Watercolors in Private Collections (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1890).

[10] “The Book of American Figure Painters,” Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine (December 1886), 38).

[11] See Mary Mears, “What the Masters Knew,” Christian Science Monitor (April 1, 1938); and Nancy Douglas Bowditch, George de Forest Brush: Recollections of a Joyous Painter (Peterborough, NH: Noone House, 1970), 48–49.

[12] Ebner, Sculptor in Buckskin, 126.

[13] Société des Artistes Français, Explication des Ouvrages de Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture, Gravure et Lithographie des Artistes Vivants (Paris: C. de Mourgues frères, 1898), no. 3758.

[14] Unidentified 1898 clipping in the Proctor Papers, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming.

[15] Lorado Taft, “A. Phimister Proctor,” Brush and Pencil (September 1898), 224.

[16] Chicago Evening Post (June 24, 1898).

[17] In one of the surviving casts, at the Brooklyn Museum, there is no foundry mark, though comparisons with other Thiébaut Frères castings suggest that this bronze was cast by that firm in Paris. On one other casting, sold at Christie’s in New York in 1990, the foundry mark is from Roman Bronze Works. Since Roman Bronze Works did not start up until 1900, this casting would have to have been made after that date. For information on the early history of Roman Bronze Works, see Michael Shapiro, Bronze Casting and American Sculpture (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1985), 137. And regarding Gorham Co. Founders, Proctor is not known to have used this foundry until 1913, when he had a major retrospective showing that autumn. Exhibition of Bronzes and Plaster Models by A. Phimister Proctor.

[18] Reinis, Founders and Editors of the Barye Bronzes, 132–33.

[19] Ebner, Sculptor in Buckskin, 130.

[20] Official Illustrated Catalogue, Fine Arts Exhibit, United States of America, Paris Exposition of 1900 (Boston: Noyes, Platt & Company, 1900), 96.

[21] Ebner, Sculptor in Buckskin, 136. Proctor was represented by eight sculptures, including the Indian Warrior, according to the Official Illustrated Catalogue.

[22] Ebner, Sculptor in Buckskin, 132.

[23] “Seattle Museum’s Catalogue Grows . . . Sculptor Makes Gift,” Seattle Post Intelligencer (October 28, 1909).

[24] Falk, Annual Exhibition Record of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 2:390.

[25] Typescript listing of the Century Association Proctor showings in 1902, Proctor Papers, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West; William A. Coffin, Pan-American Exposition: Catalogue of the Exhibition of Fine Arts (Buffalo, NY: David Gray, 1901), 70.

[26] “A Successful Canadian Sculptor,” Toronto Saturday Night (January 8, 1910).

[27] Catalogue of Sculpture, Bronzes, Water Colors, and Sketches Exhibited by A. Phimister Proctor, nos. 3 and 4.

[28] Canadian Art Club: Second Annual Exhibition, no. 47.

[29] This was a gift of a group of men and women from Portland: Mrs. A. L. Mills, Mrs. T. H. Bartlett, Mary Forbush Failing, Mrs. H. C. Cabell, Charles Francis Adams, John C. Ainsworth, William D. Cartwright, and T. B. Wilcox. See “Portland’s Art Taste Commended by One of Great Animal Sculptors,” Sunday Oregonian (December 17, 1911).

[30] According to an article dated after 1902 titled “Indian Chief on Horseback,” sales of the small version at that time were controlled exclusively in New York by Tiffany and Company (unidentified clipping, Proctor Papers, McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West). The article illustrates a casting of the small version from “Jno. Williams Bronze Founders of New York.” No such casting has surfaced in the present research, however.

[31] See Shapiro, Bronze Casting and American Sculpture, 1850–1900, 175.

[32] See David B. Dearinger (ed.), Paintings and Sculptures in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, vol. 1 (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2003), 452.

[33] Adeline Adams, The Spirit of American Sculpture (New York: National Sculpture Society, 1923), 140.