Lot 575    

Joseph Henry Sharp, Indian Medicine or Black Robe?
2006, Spring Decorative Arts, June 17
oil on canvas, signed lower right, and titled and signed on verso. Retains original Taos Society price tag and is in its original frame; 25" x 30" (w/o frame), 36" x 41" (w/frame).

Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953) is considered the father of the Taos Society of Artists. His extraordinary output of paintings in his long career made him one of the most prolific and prominent painters of the American Indian. Although he is known for his images of the American west, his other accomplishments included years of teaching in Cincinnati and publication of his works in several magazines.

Sharp was born in Bridgeport, Ohio in 1859. When he was a boy, his hearing was severely damaged as a result of a near-drowning incident. At age 12, his father died, and at age 14, Sharp was forced to drop out of school because his hearing loss had deteriorated and was virtually complete. Sharp then moved to Cincinnati to live with his aunt, and it was here that his formal art education began. He managed to enroll in the McMicken School of Design while still working and providing his mother with financial support. Afterwards he continued at the Cincinnati Art Academy and at age 22, he took his first trip abroad to Antwerp. Over the next decade, Sharp would study in Munich, Spain, Italy and Paris with notable artists such as Karl Marr and Cincinnati friend Frank Duveneck. In Cincinnati, Sharp was a student of Henry Farny, another renowned painter of Indians. Sharp insisted on going West and it was suggested by Farny that he study the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. His first trip was to Santa Fe in 1882. In 1893, Sharp discovered the Taos area, and became fascinated by the mixture of Indian and Spanish cultures. He also began teaching figure painting the year before at the Cincinnati Art Academy, and during the next several years he often split his time between Taos and Cincinnati, where he taught figure painting at the Art Academy. Sharp, however, did not restrict himself to Taos and its inhabitants. He realized that the Plains Indians were moving towards extinction, so he made several trips north, especially to document Indian survivors of the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Having achieved significant success with his artistic pursuits, Sharp resigned his teaching position in Cincinnati in 1902 and split his time between the Crow Agency in Montana and Taos. He was rapidly becoming the most highly regarded portrait artist of American Indians. In Montana alone, Sharp executed over 200 portraits of Plains Indians. After he had exhausted his possibilities at the Crow Agency, he moved permanently to Taos in 1912. From there he continued to work and travel until his death in 1953 at age 93.

While Sharp is revered in the artistic community for the founding of the Taos Society, one can persuasively argue that his contribution to study of the history and culture of the American Indian is far more important. He left behind thousands of paintings, and his documentation of Indian life is unrivaled. It was his constant goal to capture the essence of Indian life during a period when their cultures were slowly deteriorating.

Indian Medicine or Black Robe? is one of Sharp’s more profound, complicated, and provocative works. The subject is an Indian, in this case Elk Foot, seated in a bare interior contemplating his spiritual beliefs. He leans against the wall, staring down at a bundle of eagle feathers—his Indian medicine, while he grapples with the prospect of Christianity, illustrated by the crucifix on the wall. On the back of this painting is an original label, in Sharp’s hand: INDIAN MEDICINE OR BLACK ROBE. The Indian designates the Christian religion by the word "blackrobe" - In his hands is his "spiritual medicine", various charms to keep evil spirits away and propitiate the gods - It is a study of the conflicting emotions between his own religion and Christianity. J.H. Sharp.

Such thematic constructions were not uncommon in Sharp’s work, given his art historical background and his studies in Europe. He often recorded Indian rituals in his work, and he was very much aware of the period of change that was approaching tribes in the frontier. Indian Medicine is expressive of the fragility of their traditions and the perplexities of their situation.



Provenance:  
Ex Collection Marge and Charles Schott


Condition:  
Lined and replaced stretcher, frame repainted.
Sold: $450,000.00
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
      Ask a Question

All Images

Ben Wittick, <i>Apache Baby</i>,
Lot # 616 - Ben Wittick, Apache Baby,
ca 1878-1880, oil on board, unsigned. Based on the photograph that appears on page 21 in Packard and Packard, Southwest 1880 with Ben Wittick, Pioneer Photographer of Indian and Frontier Life that includes photographs from the collection of the Museum of New Mexico, published in 1970. In a modern ... > Item Details
Windsor Bench in Green Paint,
Lot # 269 - Windsor Bench in Green Paint,
American, ca 1810-1830, mixed woods. Half-arrowback form having a plank seat, scrolled arms and bamboo turned legs. In an old alligatored green paint; 17" seat height x 33" overall height x 72" long. > Item Details
Folk Art Hanging Sculpture: <i>The Ghost Story</i>,
Lot # 812 - Folk Art Hanging Sculpture: The Ghost Story,
early 20th century, titled below, molded composition. A wonderfully charming bas relief plaque depicting caricatures of a mammy figure spinning scary yarns to a group of African-American children. In its original frame with a painted night scene with trees, a crescent moon, and a black cat. 16.5" ... > Item Details
Early Luxury Coffee Bin in Original Paint,
Lot # 337 - Early Luxury Coffee Bin in Original Paint,
late 19th century, in a bittersweet colored paint, LUXURY COFFEE stenciled on front and lid; 32" high x 22" wide x 16" deep. > Item Details
Early Cartoon Drawing with Watercolor of a Young Lady,
Lot # 847 - Early Cartoon Drawing with Watercolor of a Young Lady,
American, mid-19th century, on a single sheet of heavy wove paper. A watercolor cartoon drawing captioned in dialect and titled A COMMITTY FROM HOGAN'S ALLY VISITS SENT LUK'S; verso with a charming watercolor of a young woman in a garden, holding a watering can. Probably removed from a sketchbook;... > Item Details
American Coin Silver Beaker with Engraved Decoration,
Lot # 12 - American Coin Silver Beaker with Engraved Decoration,
bearing pseudo-hallmarks, ca 1840, with an applied rim and foot, the latter with Greek key decoration, and with all-over engraved decoration, including stylized foliate designs; 3.75" high, approx. 4.1 ozt (130 g). > Item Details
Five Graduated Copper Luster Pitchers,
Lot # 300 - Five Graduated Copper Luster Pitchers,
all early 19th century, of earthenware with various hand painted luster and decal decoration. Includes a relief molded jug with Morris Dancer decoration and overglaze blue accents; 5.75" high; a milk jug with rose decoration around the neck; 5.5" high; a milk jug with luster decoration on a green gr... > Item Details
Maysville, Kentucky Two-Gallon Stoneware Crock,
Lot # 480 - Maysville, Kentucky Two-Gallon Stoneware Crock,
American, last quarter 19th century. A salt glazed jar having a combination of brushed and stenciled blue decoration GA McCARTHEY & BRO MAYSVILLE KY; 11" high x 8" diameter. > Item Details
Very Unusual Painting of the Back of the Quackenbush Home,
Lot # 701 - Very Unusual Painting of the Back of the Quackenbush Home,
oil on canvas, inscribed near center NQB Sep 24 1811 with additional, unreadable writing. An odd painting that depicts the alley behind the Quackenbush home in Albany, New York. Pictured is a cat drinking a bowl of milk and one of the servants who appears to be carrying dirty dishes to the exterio... > Item Details
Lot # 341 - "Pennsylvania Dutch" Style Toy Barn with Nine Sheep Figures,
American, likely mid-19th century. A very folksy barn with animals; the barn is constructed of wood with cut nails; the sheep are stuffed canvas and covered in natural wool. Included are a ram and several ewes, some posed in a head butting position. The barn is painted green and faux brick; the sh... > Item Details
Howard Finster Shelf Clock,
Lot # 366 - Howard Finster Shelf Clock,
Georgia, mid-20th century, signed in pencil JESUS SAVES / HOWARD FINSTER. A classic example of the clocks made by this Georgia folk/outsider artist, with chip-carved and polychrome decoration. With an earlier photograph tablet and a GE electric movement, both appear original; 22.5" high x 14.5" wi... > Item Details
Portrait of an African-American Gentleman by Kenneth Ozier,
Lot # 425 - Portrait of an African-American Gentleman by Kenneth Ozier,
oil on canvas, signed lower right and dated 1925. A bust-length portrait of a young African-American man with a shaved head and wearing a floral scarf. In a modern frame; 19" x 17" (w/o frame), 23" x 21" (w/frame). Kenneth Ozier (1905-1978) was a Cincinnati, Ohio artist who studied at the Cincinn... > Item Details
Jaccard and Company, St. Louis Coin Silver Beaker or Julep Cup,
Lot # 10 - Jaccard and Company, St. Louis Coin Silver Beaker or Julep Cup,
marked JACCARD & CO ST. LOUIS COIN (St. Louis, Missouri, ca 1840), with an applied foot and rim, and cartouches on both sides (unengraved); 3.75" high, approx. 4.4 ozt (140 g). > Item Details
Folk Art Whirligig,
Lot # 518 - Folk Art Whirligig,
American, first half 20th century, constructed of pine and bent wire. It depicts a mother and child with buildings; the rotation of the vanes articulates the mother's arm, causing it to strike the child on the top of his head. In a grungy alligatored paint; 12" high x 15" long x 7.5" (across vanes... > Item Details
Buffalo Pottery Deldare
Lot # 124 - Buffalo Pottery Deldare "Fallowfield Hunt" Pitcher, Nappy and Plate,
the first of Gothic, tapered, octagonal form with flared lip, entitled The Fallowfield Hunt and signed by the artist M. Vogt; 6" high x 4" diameter at the base; the second with tab handles entitled The Fallowfield Hunt; unsigned; 8" diameter handle to handle; and the last entitled The Fallowfield Hu... > Item Details
Cow Creamer with Rockingham Glaze,
Lot # 492 - Cow Creamer with Rockingham Glaze,
19th century, of yellow ware with vibrant Rockingham glaze on an oval plinth, with tail over back forming the handle. Retains original fitted stopper on center of back; 5" high x 6.5" long. > Item Details
Four Hand-Colored English Shooting Aquatints after Wolstenholme,
Lot # 314 - Four Hand-Colored English Shooting Aquatints after Wolstenholme,
English, late 19th century. Set of four aquatints, all hand-colored, after originals by Dean Wolstenholme. Titles include Plate I Shooting / Going Out; an image of two sportsmen and three English pointers in front of a thatched cottage, setting out to go partridge hunting; Plate II Game Found, the s... > Item Details
Margaret Quackenbush Flame Stitched Firescreen Panel,
Lot # 722 - Margaret Quackenbush Flame Stitched Firescreen Panel,
likely Albany, New York and 18th century. A shield-shaped embroidered panel constructed of multicolor wool thread on canvas; bearing the name Margaret Quackenbush in marking stitch in the lower corners. Mounted (bound, not laid down) to paperboard with a linsey-woolsey back fabric (possibly origin... > Item Details
Isfahan Rug,
Lot # 692 - Isfahan Rug,
floral, with a central medallion, in reds and blues; 114" x 162". > Item Details
George Marcum, Impressionist Harbor Scene,
Lot # 400 - George Marcum, Impressionist Harbor Scene,
oil on board, unsigned, image of a boat docked at a wharf with industrial buildings in the background. 10.5" x 8.5" (w/o frame), 15" x 13" (w/frame). In a gilded moulded wood frame. George Herbert Marcum (1870-1955, Philadelphia) studied at the Art Students League in New York. He exhibited at the Wh... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: