Dale Nichols painting back in Butler County

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:11 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - After being out of public sight for decades, a unique painting is now on display at the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art.

“It’s called the Sanley Farm,” Bone Creek Museum Collections Manager Gabrielle Comte said. “(The painting) has been sort of the center of an 80-year long mystery in the Dale Nichols and Bone Creek Museum universe.”

The painting is an early representation of Dale Nichols’ famous “barn in the winter” scene, which he became famous for. “It was done in 1933,” Comte said. “It could be possibly one of his first examples of that scene, and one of the only examples of where he painted an actual place on site in his career.” After Nichols painted it, experts believe it was put on display in a gallery in New York City. Then it was purchased. “After that, it sort of went off the radar,” Comte said.

The painting has a definite local connection. “It was painted on site at the home of Dale Nichols’ sister and her husband Dave Sanley in Surprise, Nebraska, or just outside of Surprise, Nebraska,” Comte said. Members of the Sanely family have memories of Nichols painting this, and for several decades they’ve been looking out for it. “Earlier this year, a family was having an estate sale in Omaha,” Comte said. “They realized this was the missing painting. Bone Creek, and some of the Sanley family members, were able to contact the proprietor of the sale, and were able to bring it back to Bone Creek Museum.”

After 80 years, this painting is back home. “We were very grateful to the Sanley family members, several of whom donated money so that we could acquire this painting,” Comte said. “They all were very supportive of us bringing this painting back to Butler County. After 80 years of it hanging in a private home you know, it was very much enjoyed, but few people got to see it. Now, it will be in a place where it can be enjoyed by so many people all over the country and the world.”

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