October - November Evening, Crow Reservation, Montana signed 'J.H. Sharp' (lower right) oil on canvas 24 x 30in
Provenance: Property of a Private Collection
Note: A short description in the artist's hand accompanies the painting: 'Oct - Nov. Evening, Crow Reservation Montana, Early 1920's The Custer Battlefield on these bluffs just a short way out of picture on the right. Crow Teepees. Squaws preparing sweat bath for buck standing in Teepee entrance. Heating pile of stones to take into the little covered "wickiup" - Burch strips, goes in pours water on hot stones for steam bath - for colds, cleanliness or ceremonial. J.H. Sharp.'
Starting in 1902 Sharp established a permanent home at Crow Agency, Montana. Facilitated by the purchase of a large group of his pictures by Phoebe Hearst for the University of California, Sharp resigned from his position at the Cincinnati Academy of Art. Spending the fall and winter in Montana and summers in Taos, New Mexico, Sharp explained this seemingly counter-intuitive arrangement:
"At this season of the year [winter], the indians [at Crow Agency] have more time for posing -- which they are readily induced to do for a consideration of two dollars a sitting -- and the snowy landscape, sage brush foothills, and winter foliage along the Little Big Horn River are more paintable."*
As a student of Crow culture, Sharp was fascinated by the winter cleansing ritual of the sweat bath. Similar paintings of this ritual include: "Preparing for the Medicine Sweat," oil 16 x 20in at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming and "The Sweat Lodge," oil, 24 x 36in at the Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa, Okalahoma.
*Fenn, Forest, The Beat of the Drum and the Whoop of the Dance, Fenn Publishing Co., Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1983 pg. 168.