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According to Marie Watkins, a Joseph Henry Sharp scholar and associate professor of art history at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, “‘Fine for figure compositions,’ Joseph Henry Sharp observed of his Taos models, ‘but very few have the interesting faces & history of the old plains fighters.’ The painting, however, is more complex than an image of a long ago Plains war chief holding a spear and medicine shield, ostensibly Southern Cheyenne from all the trappings.

“Sharp, too, commented subtly on contemporary life in Taos in this loosely-painted and boldly colored composition. Looking closely, one sees the realism of exposure to the sun from tan lines on the model, the dark face and lower right arm opposed to the lighter upper body that has worn a shirt. This is an artist’s model at work. Sharp is addressing the artifice in his painting. He, too, is challenging the Indian stereotype. Is it the viewer’s perception of Indians or Sharp’s crafting of the appearance which deceives? In Sharp’s painterly composition there is more than meets the eye in this portrait of an ‘old plains fighter.’”

PROVENANCE
Private collection, Hewlett Bay Park, New York
Private collection, Texas
Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, Reno, Nevada, 2014
Private collection, Oregon

LITERATURE
Forrest Fenn, The Beat of the Drum and the Whoop of the Dance: A Study of the Life and Work of Joseph Henry Sharp, Fenn Publishing Co., 1983, p. 256, illustrated
Larry Len Peterson, Blackfeet John L. “Cutapuis” Clarke and the Silent Call of Glacier National Park: America’s Wood Sculptor, Sweetgrass Books, 2019, p. 29, illustrated
Larry Len Peterson, The American West Reimagined: Gems from the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, 2021, p. 323, illustrated

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