Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953) The Peacemaker 25 x 30in

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Lot 57
Joseph Henry Sharp
(1859-1953)
The Peacemaker 25 x 30in

Sold for US$ 200,000 inc. premium
Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953)
The Peacemaker
signed 'JH Sharp.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 x 30in

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    (probably) Jim Fowler's Period Gallery West, Scottsdale, Arizona.
    Acquired by the late owner, by 1980.

    Literature
    S.H. McGarry, Honoring The Western Tradition: The L.D. "Brink" Brinkman Collection, Kerrville, Texas, 2003, p. 80, illustrated.

    Joseph Henry Sharp is justly regarded as the spiritual father of the Taos Art Colony. Through his friendships with Ernest Blumenschein, Bert Geer Phillips, E. Irving Couse and others, the colony eventually came to form in Taos. He was completely deaf from a childhood accident, and at age fourteen, because of his deafness, left public school to study art in Cincinnati at the McMicken School and the Cincinnati Academy of Art. The studio he painted in happened to be in the same building occupied by another artist, Henry Farny. The two met and became friends. Farny had many books in his studio illustrating and describing Pueblo Indians. He often lent them to Sharp and the two spoke about Indian life on many occasions. In 1893, Sharp first went to Taos, and his sketches from that trip were eventually published in Harper's Weekly. He began making summer trips West to sketch Indians, and in 1902, he painted in Arizona, California, Wyoming, and Montana. By 1912, Sharp was a permanent resident of Taos, living across from Kit Carson's home and painting many of the Pueblo Indians in their daily activities.

    Once fully established as a professional painter, Sharp began amassing a huge personal collection of Native American artifacts and costume. It was important to him that these artifacts be preserved and that what he depicted be authentic. He also believed this to be the best way to fully understand and appreciate what he was painting. Sharp made sure that he knew all of his portrait sitters personally. In this way, he was as much an amateur anthropologist as painter.

    Sharp's interiors were carefully staged in his studio and the contemplative quiet of Sharp and his sitter flow to the viewer. Such is Sharp's skill that the direct gaze of the sitter is undiluted by the rich colors and textures that cover the painting. The vertical striped blanket in the background on the right is foiled by the uniform tonality of the hide behind the sitter and the animal skin he sits upon. The quiver and shield upper left are an echo of the extreme colors and textures in the sitter's shirt. The shirt itself is carefully constructed of painterly dabs of bright colors which nonetheless convey all the detail of the rich decoration. The same technical mastery is on view in his depiction of the yellow leggings—devoid of the color variation in the shirt, the artist uses subtle shifts in tones in multiple layers to give them a three-dimensional presence. Sharp's collection of objects and costumes in this case literally cover the entire composition. It is as if the artist knows his record of the moment will outlast everything he is painting. The Peacemaker is steeped in his deep nostalgia for the vanishing culture of the American Indian and the Old West.

    At Sharp's funeral, fellow Taos artist Ernest Blumenschein expressed the enduring appeal of Sharp's work, saying, "some of these paintings will live as long as paint lasts on canvas. He was the reporter, the recorder of the absolute integrity of the American Indian...He will go down in history with Russell and Remington and the few early artists of Indian life. In trying to arrive at real values in our group of Taos artists, I sometimes wonder if our ambitious attempts along high art lines will be worth as much to the world as the honest unvarying recordings of this simple man, Henry Sharp."
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