HENRY OSSAWA TANNER (1859 - 1937) Head of a Sheep.
Oil on canvas, mounted on board, circa 1880-81. Approximately 267x254 mm; 10 1/2x10 inches. Signed in oil, lower left recto. With a cropped oil study of a nude on the verso of the board.
Provenance: the estate of the artist, with estate blue ink stamp and the ink signature of Jesse O. Tanner, on the frame back; Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, with the label on the frame back; the artist Harry Andrew Jackson; thence by descent, private collection, Wyoming.
Tanner painted Head of a Sheep early in his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts when he seized on the speciality of painting animals. With the support of his parents and inspiration from the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, Henry Ossawa Tanner enrolled at the Academy in December of 1879. A year later he began life drawing classes under the tutelage of Thomas Eakins. After an interest in maritime painting, Tanner settled on painting animal subjects, with his stated desire "to become an American Landseer." According to Anna O. Marley, "Tanner was so devoted to animal painting that he bought a sheep to serve as a model for his pastoral compositions." This small study has clear ties in subject to Tanner's 1881 Boy and Sheep Under a Tree. But its bold passages of painterly brushwork are closer to his naturalist study of lions, Pomp at the Zoo, circa 1880, and Lion Licking its Paw, 1886. Marley p. 19; Mosby pp. 74-75.