Awa Tsireh Untitled Painting of Matachines Dancer [SOLD]


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Alfonso Roybal, Awa Tsireh, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter

This untitled original watercolor painting was created by Awa Tsireh, a San Ildefonso Pueblo artist who holds a position of great significance among the early Native American painters. His beautiful paintings rarely appear on the market today, and when they do, they do not remain available for long. This example is an exceptionally rare depiction of the Matachines Dance, which we do not see often in early pueblo works.

The Matachines Dance is most unusual in that it is performed by both Pueblo and Hispanic groups. Some Native American tribes outside of New Mexico, including the Yaqui in Arizona and the Tarahumara in Mexico, perform the dance as well. As one might expect, the ceremony varies greatly between various groups, and historians offer conflicting reports on the purpose and execution of the ceremony.

Awa Tsireh's work with this Matachines Dance participant is excellent. Thin pencil outlines define the dancer's tall, slender frame; skillfully applied watercolor paints add depth and dimension. The dancer's loose garments hang from his body in a manner that feels accurate. The colors are delightful, with prominent blocks of black being softened by wispy blue, red and green tones. Awa Tsireh's paintings are consistently excellent, and this piece is no exception.

Artist signature of Alfonso Roybal, Awa Tsireh, San Ildefonso Pueblo PainterThe painting is signed Awa Tsireh in lower right. It is framed in high-quality materials, including a thin wood frame and off-white matting with an interior band in light blue.

Alfonso Roybal (1898-1955) Awa Tsireh (Cat-tail Bird) was many things to his pueblo of San Ildefonso. He was a farmer, pottery painter, museum employee, painter, and silversmith. He had many trades and skills but is primarily remembered today as a painter and metalworker. He began painting in 1917, which places him among the very first pueblo painters. His artworks were featured in "Awa Tsireh: Pueblo Painter and Metalsmith", a comprehensive exhibition at Phoenix's Heard Museum. His works are included in many major public and private collections, including that of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.

Awa Tsireh was recognized beyond his native world as an outstanding artist. His watercolors were sent by Alice Corbin Henderson to the Arts Club of Chicago for a special exhibit in 1920. His paintings appeared in early exhibits in Santa Fe, and he was among the several artists to receive prizes at the first Santa Fe Indian Market. In 1925, the Chicago papers were generous in their acclaim for his exhibit in the Newberry Library. The Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts in New York in 1931 included Awa Tsireh paintings. He is generally regarded as one of the most influential pueblo painters, and his works continue to increase in value as his historical significance continues being recognized.

Condition: excellent condition

Provenance: this Awa Tsireh Untitled Painting of Matachines Dancer is from a private California collection

Recommended Reading: Through Their Eyes: Indian Painting in Santa Fe, 1918-1945 by Michelle McGeough

TAGS: Native American Fine ArtSan Ildefonso PuebloNative American PaintingsDiné - Navajo Nation, Alfonso Roybal (1898-1955) Awa Tsireh (Cat-tail Bird)

Close up view of the dancer's face.