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
Wooden Wagon with Carved Horse and Driver, Plus,
Lot # 785 - Wooden Wagon with Carved Horse and Driver, Plus,
American, ca 1920s. A hand-carved open-bed wagon having a horse and driver complete with leather harness for the horse. In an old alligatored painted surface; 7" high x 15.5" long x 4" deep; PLUS two steer made of molded composition material having tack eyes and attached wooden horns, in an old ta... > Item Details
Miniature Portrait of Andrew Jackson, After John Dodge Wood,
Lot # 165 - Miniature Portrait of Andrew Jackson, After John Dodge Wood,
ca 1845, watercolor on paperboard. A charming portrait of the seventh president wearing a black suit. In its original, rolled gold case that can be worn as a brooch or on a chain. 2.25" x 1.5" (w/o case), 2.75" x 2.25" (w/case). This miniature is based one of the two miniature portraits made of J... > Item Details
Folksy Moonlit Landscape,
Lot # 751 - Folksy Moonlit Landscape,
oil on canvas. Moonlit scene with four log cabins, waterfall, and tall pine trees. 21.5" x 29" (w/o frame), 26" x 34" (w/frame). In a rustic, weathered frame with light gilded highlights. > Item Details
<i>American Hunting Scene/Wild Duck Shooting</i> Chromolithograph,
Lot # 318 - American Hunting Scene/Wild Duck Shooting Chromolithograph,
image of five duck-hunting gentlemen and their retrievers in two rowboats in a marsh. Credits bottom left Publ. & Print. by Th. Kelly, 17 Barclay St. N.Y. 23" x 29" (w/o frame), 27" x 32" (w/frame). In a wood frame. > Item Details
Ben Carlton Mead, Village Scene with African-American Figures,
Lot # 801 - Ben Carlton Mead, Village Scene with African-American Figures,
oil on canvas, signed lower left Mead. Impressionistic image of African-American figures in a modest neighborhood. 14" x 20". Ben Carlton Mead (1902-1986, Texas) studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He focused on Southwestern themes and did illustrations for True West and Old West magazines. > Item Details
Reverse Painted Glass <i>Standard Patterns</i> Trade Sign,
Lot # 340 - Reverse Painted Glass Standard Patterns Trade Sign,
late 19th-early 20th century, an inset glass panel surrounded by a wooden frame. One side reverse painted black with gold colored foil letters outlined in silver paint STANDARD PATTERNS; other side having a wooden back board. Frame in original surface; 11.5" high x 35.5" wide. > Item Details
Doll-Sized Rope Bed,
Lot # 342 - Doll-Sized Rope Bed,
American, ca 1850, in walnut, with turned posts and scroll-cut head and footboards. With rods in the rails to keep it tight, and with brass "knobs" to hold the ropes; 11" high x 13" wide x 18" long. > Item Details
Miniature Portrait of a Child,
Lot # 167 - Miniature Portrait of a Child,
early 19th century, painted on ivory and mounted within a brass oblong surround attached to a painted wooden frame; 2.25" x 1.75" (portrait), 4" x 3.5" (frame). > Item Details
Early Wrought Iron Boot Scraper,
Lot # 351 - Early Wrought Iron Boot Scraper,
American, 19th century, wrought and sheet iron. Two forged uprights terminating in ram's horn scrolls support a scraper having a double arched cutout. Mounted on a cement slab; 7" high x 7.5" wide x 4" deep (scraper only). > Item Details
Rookwood Green Standard Glaze Mug
Lot # 559 - Rookwood Green Standard Glaze Mug "Red Cloud" by Matt Daly,
very rare green standard glaze on a white body. Marks include the Rookwood logo with ten flames; incised MA Daly, shape number 684B; Red Cloud / Sioux; and painted in red 284.’02, indicating that this mug was in Rookwood’s corporate collection that was loaned to the Cincinnati Art Museum. The 284.’0... > Item Details
Early English Map of the <i>Bishoprick of Bath & Wells</i>,
Lot # 671 - Early English Map of the Bishoprick of Bath & Wells,
18th century, hand-colored engraving on laid paper. A small and finely detailed map with historical notes. In a modern frame; 7.25" x 4.75" (sight), 14.5" x 11.75" (w/frame). > Item Details
Dated 1840 Jacquard Coverlet in Indigo Blue,
Lot # 392 - Dated 1840 Jacquard Coverlet in Indigo Blue,
American, indigo blue wool on natural cotton, unsigned. Central floral elements with facing parrots contained within geometric and floral borders having corner blocks woven with the date AD 1840. Apparently made without a fringe, as the edges are hand-bound with the same thread used for the center... > Item Details
Group of Four Silhouettes,
Lot # 180 - Group of Four Silhouettes,
American, all appear to be hollow-cut and late 18th-early 19th century. Lot includes two gentlemen, likely brothers, images having inked highlights; in matching wooden frames; 6.25" x 5.25"; PLUS a young woman, image cut in an uncommon small size from laid paper; in a painted wooden frame; 6.25" x ... > Item Details
Portrait of a Young Couple,
Lot # 657 - Portrait of a Young Couple,
oil on canvas, signed lower right K. Paison?. Quarter-length image of a lady and a gentleman with downbeat expressions. 18.5" x 14.5" (w/o frame), 23" x 19" (w/frame). In a wood frame with gilded highlights and applied ornamentation. > Item Details
Pair of Merganser Decoys Attributed to Alvin Meekins, Plus,
Lot # 136 - Pair of Merganser Decoys Attributed to Alvin Meekins, Plus,
all three appear to be working decoys with weights removed. Lot includes a Merganser drake and hen; unsigned, but purportedly by Alvin Meekins, Hoopers Island, Maryland, ca 1950s. Both having tack eyes and retaining what appears to be the original paint decoration; 17.5" long; PLUS a black duck by... > Item Details
English Tea Caddy,
Lot # 683 - English Tea Caddy,
first quarter 19th century, having a mahogany-lined divided interior for three tea containers (not present); exterior having a raised chamfered lid and covered in an ash veneer. Round mother of pearl keyhole escutcheon, in an old mellow finish; 7" high x 12.5" wide x 6.5" deep. > Item Details
Quackenbush Family Leather Fire Bucket,
Lot # 704 - Quackenbush Family Leather Fire Bucket,
American, late 18th-early 19th century. Constructed of stitched leather, retaining an old (likely original) dark surface with the name Nichs. N. Quackenbush in gilt painted ornate lettering; leather handle attached with wrought iron stirrups; 11" high (less handle) x 10" rim diameter. > Item Details
Five Papier Mâché and Horn Snuff Boxes,
Lot # 197 - Five Papier Mâché and Horn Snuff Boxes,
19th century, of burl, horn, kidskin and paper mâché. Includes three hinged snuff boxes of kidskin, ranging in size from 2.75" to 3.75" long; a burl hinged cigarette box; 4.25" x 3.5"; and an oval two-piece box of horn scratch engraved on the bottom JA Price; 2.5" x 2". > Item Details
Rare Mason's White Ironstone Lion's Paw Sauce Tureen,
Lot # 303 - Rare Mason's White Ironstone Lion's Paw Sauce Tureen,
a rare sauce tureen on pedestal with square base and bowl, both with canted corners, the base supported on four finely modeled paw feet, the bowl with rolled acanthus leaf handles and the lid with open bud finial; both marked with black underglaze crown and banner mark Mason's / Patent Ironstone Chi... > Item Details
Contemporary Yoruba Beaded Conical Headpiece,
Lot # 450 - Contemporary Yoruba Beaded Conical Headpiece,
from Nigeria. Wildly whimsical hat on a plant fiber base is covered with colorful three-dimensional birds, insects, and faces with bulging eyes. Beads in a startling array of colors literally cover the entire hat; hand-woven cotton lining completes the "look," height 22.5" x diameter 11". In trad... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: