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

don't miss

an opportunity to bid. You can't win if you're not in.

sign up to bid

what's it worth?

ask the experts

sell your item

start selling
Thomas Sidney Cooper, Landscape with Cows,
Lot # 309 - Thomas Sidney Cooper, Landscape with Cows,
oil on canvas laid on board, signed lower right TS Cooper. A pastoral scene with three cows in the foreground and a cottage in the background. In a period, gesso and gilt frame; 17.75" x 21.5" (w/o frame), 24.5" x 18.5" (w/frame). Thomas Sidney Cooper (1803-1902) trained at the Royal Academy in L... > Item Details
Charles M. Russell, <i>Indian Scout on Horseback</i>,
Lot # 566 - Charles M. Russell, Indian Scout on Horseback,
oil on canvas, signed lower left. 18" x 24" (w/o frame), 29.5" x 35.75" (w/frame). Exhibited at the Cincinnati Museum of Art in the 1983 exhibit Cincinnati Collects Paintings. Charles Russell (1864-1926) was as famous for his personal character as he was for his artistic career. A simple and mod... > Item Details
Frederic Remington, Bronze, <i>Cheyenne</i>,
Lot # 598 - Frederic Remington, Bronze, Cheyenne,
signed on the base, a ca 1990 restrike of this dramatic scene of an Indian on a galloping horse. On a bluish-gray marble base; 20.5" high. > Item Details
Seascape with a Three-Masted Ship,
Lot # 406 - Seascape with a Three-Masted Ship,
oil on canvas, signed on versoR. Hubkin. Rendered in the style of Winslow Homer. Image of a lonely brig at sea at dusk. 16" x 13.5" (w/o frame), 23" x 21" (w/frame). Thick brass moulded tiered wood frame. > 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
Pair of Limestone Fu Lions,
Lot # 829 - Pair of Limestone Fu Lions,
Shanxi Province, two one-piece carvings of fierce-looking lions sitting on square bases having pictorial tablets; 33" high x 12" wide x 27" deep. > Item Details
Early Italian School Landscape with Mounted Rider,
Lot # 746 - Early Italian School Landscape with Mounted Rider,
oil on canvas, unsigned. Image of two figures on a bluff overlooking a river with mounted rider ascending a winding mountainous trail. Unframed, 15" x 23". > Item Details
Silver and Plique a Jour Cross by Mildred Watkins,
Lot # 260 - Silver and Plique a Jour Cross by Mildred Watkins,
marked by the maker on the reverse. A Celtic cross with blue enamel decoration and inset with 9 opalescent stones; 5" long. > Item Details
Small Directional Arrow with Horse Figure,
Lot # 514 - Small Directional Arrow with Horse Figure,
late 19th - early 20th century, constructed of sheet and cast iron. In a well oxidized surface; 9" high x 22.5" long. > Item Details
Two Gould <i>Birds of Asia</i> Lithographs,
Lot # 743 - Two Gould Birds of Asia Lithographs,
lot of two. Includes Pachycephalopsis Poliosoma, Sharpe/White-eyed Robin; and Cecropis Rufula/Western Mosque Swallow. Credits lower left in italics on first W. Hart del. et lith., and second J. Gould & H.C. Richter, del et lith.. Credits lower right on both, Walter, imp.. Matted and framed 20" x 26.... > Item Details
Joseph Henry Sharp, <i>Portrait of Rabbit Tail, Shoshone</i>,
Lot # 578 - Joseph Henry Sharp, Portrait of Rabbit Tail, Shoshone,
oil on canvas, signed lower left, titled on verso. Retains a label from Closson's, Cincinnati. 18" x 12" (w/o frame), 27.5" x 21.5" (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 ... > Item Details
Louis J. Endres, Moroccan Bazaar,
Lot # 661 - Louis J. Endres, Moroccan Bazaar,
oil on canvas, signed lower right LJE. Image of merchants smoking their pipes inside an exotic locale. 16" x 21" (w/o frame), 20" x 25" (w/frame). In a gilded moulded wood frame. Louis J. Endres (1896-1989) was a Cincinnati, Ohio-born artist who spent his lifetime traveling the world. He studied an... > Item Details
Queen Anne Octagonal-Top Candlestand,
Lot # 88 - Queen Anne Octagonal-Top Candlestand,
American, ca 1750, of birch and likely New England. A one-board top supported by a vasiform column having delicate spurred legs terminating in snake feet. In an old alligatored varnish over a likely original surface; 27" high x 15.5" x 15.5". > Item Details
Igbo Style <i>Mmwo</i> Society Spirit Mask,
Lot # 452 - Igbo Style Mmwo Society Spirit Mask,
from Nigeria. This impressive hand-carved wooden mask illustrates the essence of feminine beauty as conceived by Igbo society. A young girl should have the much-desired pale complexion and a fine straight nose and teeth. For this reason, the face of the mask is painted white and the hairstyle is ... > Item Details
Landscape by David Rosenthal,
Lot # 663 - Landscape by David Rosenthal,
oil on board, signed lower left D. Rosenthal. Impressionistic image of a serene lake, purportedly Mirror Lake, with colorful wooded background. 19.5" x 15.5" (w/o frame), 25.5" x 21.5" (w/frame). In a light wood cove type frame with gold filet. David Rosenthal (1876-1949, Ohio) studied at the Cincin... > Item Details
Large Leeds Creamware Blue Feather Edge Pepper Pot,
Lot # 285 - Large Leeds Creamware Blue Feather Edge Pepper Pot,
early 19th century, Leeds, of creamware, with vertical blue feather edge decoration on the shoulder and free hand blue star on the top; 5" high. > Item Details
Step-Back Cupboard in Old Mustard Paint,
Lot # 860 - Step-Back Cupboard in Old Mustard Paint,
American, mid-19th century, constructed of poplar with cut nails. A one-piece blind 2-door cupboard, upper section fitted with 3 shelves having plate rails; lower section with 2 shelves. In yellow paint with comb graining over an older gray, interior is unpainted; 73.5" high x 36" wide x 14" deep. > Item Details
Pair of Boston Coin Silver Beakers,
Lot # 13 - Pair of Boston Coin Silver Beakers,
marked JONES, SHREVE, BROWN & CO COIN (Boston, Massachusetts, ca 1854), with applied rims and feet; 4" high, total weight approx. 10.4 ozt (325 g). > Item Details
American Queen Anne Tilt-Top Tea Table,
Lot # 84 - American Queen Anne Tilt-Top Tea Table,
American, 18th century, in mahogany with cherry and oak secondary woods. With a round tilt-top, baluster-turned shaft, and cabriole legs ending in pad feet; 27.5" high, top is approx. 25.5" diameter. > Item Details
Pair of  Quackenbush Family Portraits,
Lot # 700 - Pair of Quackenbush Family Portraits,
late 19th century, oils on canvas. Folksy depictions of a middle-aged couple; she is knitting and seated in a Queen Anne chair, he is smoking a pipe next to a candlestand and seated in a bamboo Windsor chair. Appear to be in their original, matching, gesso and gilt frames; 21" x 18" (w/o frames), ... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: