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According to Marie Watkins, a Joseph Henry Sharp scholar and associate professor of art history at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, “‘I’m interested in firelight things now,’ Sharp wrote from Taos to his mentor J.H. Gest, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, in 1905, ‘and have a little tepee interior rigged up in studio, where I can pose model by lamplight & work by daylight, awful hard but lots of fun & interesting.’ An Indian seated in profile, bathed in the warm glow of teepee firelight became a trademark motif for Sharp. Sharp executed myriad versions well into the 1940s.

“Hunting Son takes on a well-practiced pose in this formulaic composition. It was a resounding client-pleaser. Looking into the single light source of the unseen fire, Hunting Son is a modern echo of the serene presence and posture of classical Greco-Roman gods that Sharp rigorously studied and copied in the late nineteenth-century European art academies.

“In his visual preservation of customs and a way of life, Sharp placed a favored Taos model, dressed in beaded and quilled buckskins, harmoniously among other favorite artifacts from his Northern Plains Indian collection. White Swan, a Crow Indian scout for Major Marcus Reno at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, painted the deer skin with images of his experiences in the battle which served as backdrop behind Hunting Son. Sharp wrote that White Swan, who frequented his Crow Agency studio, taught him sign language and modeled for him. Another Crow scout, Curley (Ashishishe), who served under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Little Big Horn, sold the buffalo robe, upon which Hunting Son sits, to Sharp. Curley reluctantly sat for portraits for Sharp. A buffalo hide war shield hanging above a Cheyenne willow backrest with the traditional hand-painted banded design in the upper right corner balances the feather bonnet in the lower left, tucked against Hunting Son’s leg. To further accentuate the ethnographic accuracy of this romanticized painting, the model rests his right hand on a hide drum; the other holds a catlinite pipe. Sharp’s inclusion of such detail of objects suggests a devoted attempt to convey an almost archaeological (and anthropological) accuracy, much in the manner of Poussin, Rubens and even artists of the Renaissance with their attempts to recapture classical antiquity by using statues and artifacts.”

Dr. Philip Katz, Fort Thomas, Kentucky, 1940s
Present owner, by descent

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