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The Chief's Canoe

1926 Belmore Browne Born: Tompkinsville, New York 1880 Died: Rye, New York 1954 oil on canvas sight 35 1/4 x 47 1/8 in. (89.5 x 119.8 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design 1964.18.1 Not currently on view

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An artist and mountaineer, Belmore Browne created paintings that capture his explorations of Alaska, Washington State, and the Canadian Rockies. The Chief's Canoe is based on a voyage he made down Alaska's Stikine River in the early 1900s with Chief Shakes of the Tlingit Indian tribe in his keahtyant (war canoe). The imposing formation in the background is Shoup Glacier, near which Browne had camped on a previous trip. He wrote that he originally intended to use a different glacier, but decided against it because it "did not quite fit the composition." Contemporary critics praised Browne's ability "to render not mere fact, but emotion, to interpret truly the impression of grandeur and bigness [found] in the awe-inspiring presence of these great manifestations of nature untouched by man." This painting captures the moment the canoe sails beyond the shadow of a large rock as its occupants come face to face with the glacier. The figures provide a scale by which to judge the glacier's immensity, even if we have never seen one in real life.


Ethnic - Indian - Tlingit

Landscape - Alaska

Landscape - phenomenon - glacier

Portrait male - Shakes

Travel - water - canoe


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Belmore Browne

Born: Tompkinsville, New York 1880 Died: Rye, New York 1954