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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, 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 also reproduced below from Page 66 of Joan Frederick’s “T.C. Cannon He stood in the Sun” is currently held in a private collection. The study we are offering here is the artist’s 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 progression and development of Cannon’s preliminary ideas into the finished painting. The main elements of Elizabeth’s classically-depicted figure—possibly loosely based on the great French Impressionist, Edouard Manet’s famous “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 present and her figure is rendered multiple times in slightly different perspectives and shadings.

Copyright 2010-2018 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 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 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 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, water and watercolor paint. The study is most beautifully and archivally matted and framed in a handmade, lacquered wood frame under UV-resistant TruView “Museum” glass by Goldleaf Framemakers, Santa Fe’s premier fine art framers.

This 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 artist whose brilliant career was most tragically cut short at only 31 years of age.

The piece is unsigned as one would naturally expect of an artist’s working studio study but it was purchased directly from Joyce Cannon Yi, the artist’s sister and official executor of the T.C. Cannon Estate. It is unconditionally guaranteed to be an authentic, original work by T. C. Cannon. 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 as an aching and bittersweet tribute and testament to the great lost love of his all-too-brief life.


Note: Quotation and photograph 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