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John Mix Stanley
Black Knife, an Apache Warrior
1846
oil
42 3/8 x 52 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Misses Henry



At the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1845, Stanley joined Colonel Stephen Watts Kearney's expedition to California and produced many sketches and paintings of the campaign. Here he has depicted the celebrated Apache chief, Black Knife, reconnoitering the troops on the march from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to San Diego, California. The landscape portrays the Rio Gila, which runs through Arizona and New Mexico. Stanley has also made a great effort to include in the foreground accurate details of a variety of native Southwestern plants, adding a sense of authenticity to his painting's narrative.