Native Life in the Americas: Artists’ Views

"Resting Cowboys" by Allan Houser
“Resting Cowboys,” by Allan Houser (Apache)
Plate 68, American Indian Painters, by O.B. Jacobson and Jeanne D’Ucel, 1950. Courtesy Tozzer Library, Harvard University.

Through February 28, 2012

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This exhibition showcases the work of important though not well-known artists who focused on various aspects of Native American life and culture.

The work of such painters as Karl Bodmer (1809-1893), George Catlin (1796-1872), and Frederic Remington (1861-1909) are familiar to many people throughout the world who are interested in American Indians and in artists’ interpretations of Native life and culture. All were prolific, and their works now reside in many of the world’s major art museums. They continue to be the subject of books and exhibitions, with their art is reproduced in a variety of media including catalogs, posters, and even refrigerator magnets.

But many lesser known artists who portrayed Native American life and culture also deserve attention. This exhibition highlights some of their work by displaying selected prints and books from the Tozzer Library collection, looking beyond the familiar 19th century white male painters to include women artists, Native artists, and even one living artist.The exhibition also includes artists who were primarily illustrators, designers, and printmakers rather than painters.

The geographic focus of the exhibition is North America, though Mexico, Central America, and the Andes are also represented. The time periods in which these artists worked range from the mid-1930’s through the first decade of the 21st century. Some, both Native and white, had been encouraged and supported by the Works Project Administration and similar programs during the Depression. Others’ artistic output supported them comfortably. Some were scholars as well as artists. Many worked in multiple media. Some were most productive in their adopted communities while others spent their lives comfortably close to home with their art reflecting that intimacy.

Curated by Janet Steins.