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According to Julie Schimmel in a 2009 letter, “As I mentioned, Bert Phillips’ paintings are difficult to date, because there are so few firmly dated paintings to which other paintings can be compared. However, your painting is one that can be dated.

“The first significant painting by Phillips that includes an olla jar and an Indian woman was The Water Carrier, c. 1912. It is a large work measuring 40 x 28 inches. This painting is an example of Phillip’s early mature style and typically is less detailed than his earlier work between 1900 and 1912 and more detailed than much of his later work.

“Your painting appears to depict the same woman with the same off-shoulder pink wrap dress, white waist sash and leather boots, and pink shawl draped from her head. The only difference is in the olla itself. The Water Carrier includes a blackware olla while your painting features an olla that is different in shape and color, probably much earlier in vintage.

“Phillips exhibited a painting titled Daughter of the Water Clan twice, once in 1913 and once in 1915. I suspect the title the painting now carries, The Water Carrier is the same work. I cannot confirm this, because measurements were not customarily given in early catalogues. However, because of the painting’s large size, it would be an obvious exhibition piece.

“Because of the similarity in style and the model, I would date your work c. 1912. You could reasonably call this work The Water Carrier, because that is who she is. She also is clearly from the Taos pueblo.

“Your painting is quite a good Phillips. I particularly like the serpentine pattern created by the wild flowers (Phillips favored white blossoms). I also like the irregular path made by soft leather boots that leads back to a stream in the background where she fills the olla.”

A photocopy of the letter will accompany the lot.

PROVENANCE:
Private Collection, Escondido, california

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