Born in the Alsace, France, Henry François Farny’s family immigrated to the United States in 1853, settling in Warren, Pennsylvania. It was there that he had his earliest encounters with Native Americans, with whom he remained fascinated for the rest of his life, eventually becoming one of the nation’s foremost painters of Indians. In 1859, Farny’s family moved to Cincinnati, where he remained until 1866, when he took a job in New York as an engraver and cartoonist for Harper’s Monthly. Over the next decade, Farny went abroad three times, studying in Rome, Düsseldorf, and Munich, where he honed his skills as a both a landscape and figure painter. In 1881, Farny made his first of many trips west, visiting the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakota Territory.
The format and loose brushwork of The Rockies suggest that it was painted on location in a single sitting. Oil sketches such as this probably served as reference pieces for subsequent compositions undertaken in his studio. Farny’s paintings were known for their convincing realism. In 1910, upon seeing Farny’s work, Theodore Roosevelt declared, “It is like going home to see that, I have seen exactly that landscape a hundred times. It is perfect. It is the real West.”