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Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905
Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905
Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905
Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905
Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905
Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905
Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905
Pacific Fine Art

Joseph Henry Sharp Original Vintage Antique Taos Society New Mexico School of Art Portrait Oil Painting on Canvas Native America Sioux Chief Flat Iron Blackbird Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation South Dakota cir. 1905

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Joseph Henry Sharp (September 27, 1859 – August 29, 1953) stands as a distinguished American painter and a pivotal figure in the Taos Society of Artists, where he holds the esteemed title of the "Spiritual Father." A trailblazer among European-American artists, Sharp's early exploration of Taos, New Mexico in 1893 alongside fellow artist John Hauser marked the beginning of his profound connection with the region.

Renowned for his depictions of American Indian portraits, cultural life, and Western landscapes, Sharp's artistic journey took a significant turn when President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned him to paint portraits of 200 Native American warriors who survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn. This monumental task led Sharp to live on the land of the Crow Agency, Montana, where he constructed the Absarokee Hut in 1905 after a successful sale of 80 paintings to Phoebe Hearst enabled him to pursue painting full-time.

Sharp's artistic pursuits took him to Europe, where he studied at prestigious institutions such as the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, the Académie Julian in Paris, and, in the 1890s, with Frank Duveneck in Italy. His travels and studies shaped his perspective, and in 1890, Sharp played a key role in founding the Cincinnati Art Club.

While teaching at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Sharp's passion for the American West drew him to Montana, where he painted scenes of native life and portraits of Plains tribes. The Smithsonian Institution acquired eleven of these portraits in 1900, further elevating Sharp's reputation.

The influential connection between Sharp and President Theodore Roosevelt resulted in a unique arrangement, allowing Sharp to build the Absarokee Hut on government land near the Crow Agency. Phoebe Hearst's acquisition of 80 paintings facilitated Sharp's transition to full-time painting, and her subsequent commission for 75 more portraits expanded the scope of his work.

In 1909, Sharp purchased a former chapel in Taos, solidifying his ties to the area. He and his wife made a permanent move to Taos in 1912, becoming founding members of the Taos Society of Artists in 1915. Sharp's artistic evolution continued in response to the landscape and light of New Mexico, leading to a shift in his techniques.

Later in life, Sharp spent winters in Hawaii with his second wife, Louise, showcasing his versatility as an artist. A retrospective of Sharp's work in 1949 at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa highlighted the depth and significance of his contributions.

Joseph Henry Sharp's prolific career came to a close when he passed away in Pasadena, California, at the age of 93. His legacy endures through around 10,500 works of art, with a remarkable 7,800 dedicated to Native American subjects. Sharp's role as both a painter and historian played a vital part in preserving the record of a changing way of life in the West.

Chief Flat Iron, an Oglala Sioux residing on the Pine Ridge Reservation, held a prominent position as both chief and Medicine Man among his people. Living contemporaneously with figures like Short Bull, Gall, and Red Cloud, Chief Flat Iron, according to the accounts of Taos artist Joseph Henry Sharp, boasted nine wives, seventy-five children, and an impressive lifespan of 107 years (Fenn, 2007, 132).

In addition to his role within the Oglala Sioux community, Chief Flat Iron garnered attention beyond the reservation. Sharp's records reveal that the chief held the position of "head of all the Indians with Buffalo Bill shows" and made appearances at notable events such as the Chicago, Buffalo, and Paris World Fairs (Sharp Papers, Painting Descriptions).

Joseph Henry Sharp, captivated by Chief Flat Iron, immortalized him in several portraits painted both at Pine Ridge Reservation and Crow Agency. The artist, known for annotating his works with anecdotes, provided detailed and captivating narratives about the chief, emphasizing the close bond he shared with Chief Flat Iron.

Sharp's affection for Chief Flat Iron shines through in his recollections. Notably, he recounts the chief's remarkable physical feats, such as an 80-year-old Flat Iron riding from Pine Ridge to Wounded Knee for the Ghost Dance, dancing all night, and returning in time for breakfast and work the next morning. Chief Flat Iron's proficiency in sign language also left a lasting impression on Sharp, who acknowledged its necessity in conveying the full depth of the chief's stories and character.

Describing Chief Flat Iron as "smart, crafty, loyal in friendship and general intelligence," Sharp held him in high regard, placing him among the foremost Native Americans he had encountered. The artist referred to the chief as a "life-long loyal friend," recalling how each encounter would prompt Flat Iron to affectionately address him as "Mita Kola," meaning "my friend." Sharp's deep connection with Chief Flat Iron is evident as he concludes, "I loved him," underscoring the unique and cherished relationship they shared.

Additional biographical reference- The Smithsonian Museum

Joseph Henry Sharp

(September 27, 1859 – August 29, 1953)

Taos Society School of Artists

Portrait of Chief Flat Iron in profile, also known as Chief Iron Tail

One of two paintings that are very similar to the Chief

Approximately 8.3" X 11.7", plus frame

Oil on Canvas

In the upper left corner, the painting is dedicated to "Black Bird", and "Sioux" is written beneath the notation. The painting is signed by the artist, in the lower right corner.

This is minor chipping in the very corner, as shown, as well as some creasing of the canvas, that has caused some very light cracks in isolated areas. Please view all images. 

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