Ken Riley, CA
As a young art student, Ken Riley had the opportunity to study with Harvey Dunn; one of America’s most influential artists and teachers. Riley attended Dunn’s evening workshops at Grand Central School of Art in New York while studying at the Art Students League during the day. Dunn had been part of Howard Pyle’s studio in Wilmington, Delaware, where luminaries such as N. C. Wyeth and Frank Schoonover also trained. Riley also studied for one year with American artist Thomas Hart Benton.
Riley is a direct link between the great Western artists of the late nineteenth century and the Western artists of the contemporary scene. He has been a member of the Cowboy Artists of America since 1982 and has worked and painted alongside some of the twentieth century’s finest interpreters of the American West; including Robert Lougheed, John Clymer, and Donald Teague.
In the late 1960’s, after working as an illustrator for many years on the East Coast, he was commissioned by the U.S. Park Service to create several paintings of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. During that time, he decided to devote his work solely to Western subjects. “Those trips,” he says, “convinced me that the West was where I wanted to live and work.” In 1973, Riley moved to Tucson, Arizona, and he has been there every since.
Early in his career, Riley painted a wide range of historical Western subjects, but during the past several years, he has concentrated almost solely on Native American subjects. He has gradually moved away from direct narrative treatments to allegorical studies of Indian life and culture. A master of design, composition, and color, Riley has developed a style of work that is immediately recognizable. He won the Prix de West award at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1995. He was the first recipient of the Eiteljorg Museum Award for excellence in American art. Riley’s paintings hang in the permanent collections of the White House and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Source: Cowboy Artist of America
Artist: Ken Riley, CA (1919-2015)Description: Oil (1999) | Image Size: 16”h x 16”w; Framed Size: 24”h x 24”w
Return of the Coldmaker
Artist: Ken Riley, CA (1919-2015)Description: Oil | Image Size: 42”w x 48”h; Framed Size: 50”w x 56”h
In “A General View of the Fine Arts” published by G.P. Putnam in 1851, Anna Douglas Ludlow wrote: “Historical painting is the noblest and most comprehensive branch of art, as it embraces man, the head of the visible creation. The historical painter, therefore, must study man, from the anatomy of his figure, to the most rapid and slightest gesture expressive of feeling, or the display of deep and subtle passions. He must have technical skill, a practiced eye and hand, and must understand so to group his skillfully executed parts as to produce a beautiful whole. And all of this is insufficient without a poetic spirit, which can form a striking conception of historical events, or create imaginary scenes of beauty.”
Truer words couldn’t be more relevant when applying them to Ken Riley’s depiction of the Blackfeet natural world deity that brings the snow in “Return of the Coldmaker.” Its technically executed parts produced a beautiful whole; a poetically spiritual imaginary scene of beauty.
Artist: Ken Riley, CA (1919-2015)Description: Acrylic | Image Size: 11”w x 13”h; Framed Size: 18.5”w x 20.5”h
Artist: Ken Riley, CA (1919-2015)Description: Oil | Image Size: 34”h x 40”w; Framed Size: 46”h x 51”w
Artist: Ken Riley, CA (1919-2015)Description: Oil on Board | Image Size: 12”h x 12”w; Framed Size: 19”h x 19”w
Artist: Ken Riley, CA (1919-2015)Description: Oil | Image Size: 8”h x 9”w; Framed Size: 12 ½”h x 13 ½”w
Typical of Ken Riley, this small Indian portrait portrays his great ability to capture the individualism and personality of his subjects. The rugged face of the Indian is the focal point of the painting while the background teepees add visual interest. The man’s striking bird headdress adds to the individual’s presence, prominence, and power and is another beautiful visual component.
Ken Riley enjoyed a long and successful career as both an illustrator, working for various publications such as National Geographic and The Saturday Evening Post, and as a professional fine artist. The National Park Service commissioned him to do a series of paintings on Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park, assignments which introduced him to the rugged beauty of the American West. Shortly after his National Park commission, he moved West and began focusing solely on painting scenes from American Indian and Western American History. He was a charter member of the National Academy of Western Art, a member of the Cowboy Artists of America, and frequent participant in national exhibitions. His work can be found in public and private collections worldwide.
Artist: Ken Riley, CA (1919-2015)Description: Oil | Image Size: 12”h x 9”w; Framed Size: 20”h x 17”w
Kenneth Riley, a highly accomplished realistic painter who was able to accurately depict figures, landscapes and still life subjects, was also a master of design and composition. Even small paintings such as this were well thought out in terms of creating a visually interesting scene and narrative. Here, Riley repeatedly used a circle format to add visual interest… the necklace worn by the Indian, the round lodges in the background which are, incidentally, indicative of the Mandan, and the bold circle design on the buffalo hide worn here. Riley also added visual emphasis with a triangular composition created by the robe and the pipe which is held. Well executed repetitive formats provide continuity in paintings.