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According to Marie Watkins, “Taos provided new artistic directions, models, and fulfillment for Sharp. “After the northern fellows, the pueblos did not interest me”, Sharp remarked in 1908, “until I got them in the sun or by firelight.” He allowed the Taos models were “fine for figure compositions.” And they certainly were. Sharp created a few thousand such studies long into the 1940s. Each work was nuanced. Each portrayed beauty in the ordinary.

“Into the second studio room that Sharp painted over and over again, sunlight spills from the open window onto the Indian’s face, his porcupine-quilled blue-buckskin shirt trimmed with horsehair and scalp locks, and the stem of a catlinite pipe. The soft firelight glow from the kiva fireplace illuminates the contours of the blanket wrapped around the figure’s lower torso from behind. Red-orange shadows dance on the wall. A lone Pueblo ceramic vessel placed on the mantle from the artist’s collection punctuates the composition like a period.

“Experimenting with pictorial space in this genre scene, Sharp frames this composition like a snapshot to give a more spontaneous impression. He cuts off almost all of the mouth of the kiva on the right and shows only half of the window on the left. The lower legs of the model are cropped by the edge of the canvas. But the painting is carefully composed. Sharp rigorously structured it with a system of interconnecting verticals, horizontals and diagonals. The completeness of the composition is contingent on our reading of it. Likewise, the viewer is left to imagine the narrative taking place.”

The Estate of Don Bennett, Agoura, California

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