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T.C. Cannon’s original painting study for “Collector #3”,1974

Talk about an incredible story. In this heartfelt and extraordinary painting study of his lost lady love,

the mysterious and vanished-without-a-trace Elizabeth R., the brilliant Native American artist, T.C. Cannon (Kiowa/Caddo 1946-1978) demonstrates through his extraordinary skill, artistic process and sardonic humor just what an incredible artist he was.

In her definitive biography of the artist, “T. C. Cannon He Stood in the Sun”, Northland Publishing, 1995, T.C. Cannon authority and author, Joan Frederick quotes T.C.’s friend Mike Lord on the subject of the “shadowy” Elizabeth as follows on page 67:

“T.C. and Elizabeth came that summer and spent about two or three weeks with us, and they had several violent arguments during the time that they stayed with us. It was really kind of a tumultuous thing, and then they left and we never saw her again. He told me afterward that she was the one he really wished he hadn’t driven off and that he HAD lost for whatever reason. All I remember is that she was a white gal, she had dark brown hair and her name was Elizabeth, but I can’t tell you anything else abut her, but she was neat. She was a nice person. I don’t think she was an artist, just a person. She’s very shadowy.”

The finished large oil/acrylic on canvas painting of Cannon’s “Collector #3” which is reproduced just below from page 66 of Joan Frederick’s “T.C. Cannon He stood in the Sun” was formerly held in a private collection for some time and was recently acquired by The Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Ma. The Peabody-Essex recently organized and sponsored a major traveling retrospective T.C Cannon exhibition “At the Edge of America” from 2018-2019 in which the painting “Collector #3” was prominently featured at The Peabody-Essex, Smithsonian and Gilcrease Museums. The preliminary study which we are offering here is T.C Cannon’s original template for this outstanding painting and it is just as interesting in our view, or, in some ways, even more so in that it shows the work in progress and the evolution and development of the artist’s initial ideas into the finished painting.

Copyright 2010-2021 Fine Arts of the Southwest, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or use is strictly prohibited.

The study measures 14” by 17” (sight) and its framed dimensions are 22 1/2” by 25 1/2”. The study is executed

on perforated-edged white artist’s sketchbook paper in various colors of felt-tip pen, pencil and watercolor. The tape marks around the central panel almost certainly reflect where the artist masked and taped the study to his easel or a wall in preparation for painting the finished painting. The study is in generally very good condition especially considering its purpose as an actual working art studio document—in addition to the masking tape marks and wrinkles from them there are several small stains and splotches on the paper which appear to be coffee, red wine, water and watercolor paint. The study has been most beautifully matted and framed to the highest archival standards in a handmade, plum-colored lacquered wood frame under UV-resistant “TruVue” Museum conservation glass by Goldleaf Framemakers, Santa Fe’s premier fine art framers.

This painting study is not only a great piece of modern American art in its own right, it is an exceptional piece of modern American art history portraying the moments and process of the creation of a major work with special emotional resonance for a highly sensitive and talented Native American artist whose brilliant career was most tragically cut short in an auto accident in Santa Fe at only 31 years of age.

The piece is unsigned as one would naturally expect of an artist’s working studio study. It was purchased directly from Joyce Cannon Yi, the artist’s sister and official executor of the T.C. Cannon Estate and it is unconditionally guaranteed to be an authentic, original work by T. C. Cannon. Very interestingly, there is a handwritten inscription at the top right of the study in T.C. Cannon’s hand which reads “Collector #2

(Just a Girl I Use to Know)” Cannon later changed the title of the finished painting to “Collector #3” for unknown reasons but the sad, sweet and wistful title “Just a Girl I Use to Know” remains here on this study

as an aching and bittersweet tribute and testament to the great lost love of his all-too-brief life.

Price available upon request


Note: Quotation above excerpted from “T.C. Cannon He Stood in the Sun” are copyright 1995

by Joan Frederick and Northland Publishing.Art copyright by T.C. Cannon and The Cannon Estate

Edouard Manet (1832-1883), “Olympia” 1863, oil on canvas, 51.4” by 74.8”, Musee D’Orsay, Paris

The main elements of Elizabeth’s classically-depicted, semi-nude figure—possibly loosely based on the great French Impressionist, Edouard Manet’s famous “Olympia” or “Odalisque”—and her Native dress and concho belt, the Navajo rug she rests upon, the artist’s bright red heart that she literally holds in the palm of her outstretched hand, the blue decorated back wall and the window are all already present in this study almost precisely as they will appear later in Cannon’s finished painting, and, interestingly, her figure is rendered multiple times in slightly different perspectives, colors and shadings as if the artist was examining how best to present her. You can clearly see in the finished painting of "Collector #3" how Cannon evolved and developed his ideas and specific details for the final piece from this initial preliminary study.

The study is essentially an intimate, quiet private peek behind the scenes to where and how the artist alone in his creative process initially laid down the building blocks of the painting, so to speak, apparently while sometimes sipping red wine and drinking coffee, slight remnants of which are visible on the paper. In light of the artwork's emotional true-life backstory of love and loss, the single most important defining motif of the study and the painting is the woman holding the artist’s bright red heart in her hand. In the study, her hand is open cradling the heart, in the finished painting, her hand is closed around the heart suggesting perhaps a finality, ending or closure of sorts that possibly took place between the creation of the study and that of the painting?

T.C. Cannon’s “Collector #3”, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 61 1/2” by 65 1/2”, 1974 on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

“T.C. Cannon embodied traditional Native American culture combined with the best influences of Western civilization. He was a modern Indian living in a modern world, influenced by both cultures, and he used those influences to comment on the past and our present world.”

Quotation source and copyright: “T.C. Cannon, He Stood in the Sun”

by Joan Frederick, Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, AZ, 1995

“T.C. in 1975”, photograph copyright by Matthew Wysocki. Excerpted from “T.C. Cannon, He Stood in the Sun”, by Joan Frederick, Northland Publishing, 1995, pp. 11, © by Joan Frederick.

"Collector #3 (Elizabeth R.) ” Original poem by T.C. Cannon. Source and © "T.C. Cannon, At The Edge of America” edited by Karen Kramer, Peabody-Essex Museum, Salem MA. 2018, pp.189