Warren and Julie Payne


L o u i s v i l l e, K e n t u c k y

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oil on canvas

signed, l.r.

24 x 20 inches



William W. Riess (1856-1919)

Riess, “the noted Indianapolis artist, painter of true western life and the American Indian,” was born in Germany and came to the United States at the age of 28. That description comes from a 1910 newspaper article.


As a young man studying at the Royal Academy of Berlin, he fell in love with images of the American West and set out for America. He apparently went to Texas first, but settled in Indianapolis in the 1880s.


His “western fever,” as he described it in an interview, took him to Wyoming and Colorado, and his depictions of Indian and cowboy life brought him comparisons to Frederick Remington. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a friend. His Western scenes won him gold and silver medals at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California, in 1915.


Riess’ studio was in the Union Trust Building in Indianapolis, and many a prominent Hoosier made his way there to have his portrait painted. The artist, who also went by Wilhelm, had journalistic leanings as well, editing a German newspaper and a literary magazine in Indianapolis. At some point he had been president of the St. Louis (Missouri) Art Association.


Riess died in Chicago, Illinois, where he had established a temporary studio while painting the dunes of Lake Michigan and scenes in Wisconsin.


He appears in Doris Ostrander Dawdy’s Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume II (Sage/Swallow Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1981).

© 2019  Warren and Julie Payne