Original Painting of a Buffalo Hunt by Ma Pe Wi of Zia Pueblo [SOLD]

C4219-paint.jpg

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Velino Shije Herrera, Zia Pueblo Painter
  • Category: Paintings
  • Origin: Zia Pueblo
  • Medium: watercolor
  • Size:
    8-1/4" x 12-1/4" image;
    18-⅛” x 22-⅛” framed
  • Item # C4219
  • SOLD

Velino Herrera “Ma Pe Wi” was one of the most unique and innovative early Pueblo painters, and this watercolor painting is an excellent document of his skill and creativity.  It’s a scene with which collectors will be quite familiar—a buffalo hunt—that is completed in a style not often seen in images from its period. Herrera’s buffalo hunt is very realistic; his subjects are intricately framed and dramatically shaded.  His hunter’s position—seated, on horseback, leaning to the right and holding a spear—would have presented a challenge for many, but is skillfully handled here. This carefully crafted scene is framed by abstract and symbolic imagery. Rain cloud designs provide the image with its most recognizable reference to traditional Pueblo imagery, turning in diagonally towards the center of the scene.  Amazingly, the image dates to 1937. It looks more modern than that, especially to those who are familiar with Pueblo paintings of this period. This painting is proof that Ma Pe Wi was ahead of his time.

Herrera (1902-1973)  “Ma Pe Wi”, of Zia Pueblo, was one of the earliest known Rio Grande Pueblo painters.  Crescencio Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo was, by most accounts, the earliest. Martinez passed away in 1918, long before pueblo easel art was recognized as existing.  He was followed by four young pueblo men who essentially constitute the first artists to produce paintings for sale. The four were Martinez's nephew Awa Tsireh, Hopi artists Fred Kabotie and Otis Polelonema, and Velino Herrera.  These artists became very productive around 1918, feeding off each other's enthusiasm. Dr. Edgar Lee Hewitt, Director of the Museum of New Mexico, arranged for the four young men to work at the museum in 1920. Famous New Mexicans Alice Corbin Henderson, Mary Austin, and Mabel Dodge Luhan were instrumental in finding outlets for the works of these artists.  They purchased their paintings and found others to purchase them as well.

In 1919, Elizabeth DeHuff, wife of the newly-appointed superintendent of the Santa Fe Indian School, arranged an exhibit of the art of the Indian School students. DeHuff canvassed the classes to find students who excelled in paintings and drawings. She stated "Two boys showed early marks of genius: a Zia Pueblo boy, Velino Shije (later Herrera), in a primary grade whom the teacher complained drew animals and faces upon all the papers she gave to him for school work; and a Hopi boy, Fred Kabotie, who would forget what he was doing when he had sawed half through a board in the carpenter's shop and intently draw figures on its surface... One could not learn, the other would never be a carpenter, so they might just as well be occupied elsewhere." (Brody 1997)

At the age of 20 years, Herrera’s painting technique had improved tremendously and his works showed great confidence and control.  He was applying colors in complementary tones and could exhibit perspective in his works. Ethnographic accuracy was important to Herrera and his paintings were strong in that regard.  Clara Lee Tanner’s Southwest Indian Painting: A Changing Art praised Herrera’s skill and versatility: “Watercolor, Shiva, tempera and oils, all have been mastered by Velino Herrera.  He has painted murals in homes and in public buildings; particular mention should be made of his fine work in the Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.  His work is done in a flat style, or with a little shading, or in full perspective. Full realism to abstract painting were developed by Ma-Pe-Wi, frequently the two styles appear in the same picture.” Today, his paintings are considered to be very collectible, because of his historical significance and the quality of his work.

Artist Signature and date (1937) - Velino Shije Herrera (1902-1973) Ma Pe Wi - OrioleThis exceptional painting is signed “Ma Pe Wi” and dated 1937.  It is placed underneath a wide, off-white mat within a beautifully carved frame. 


Condition: Very good condition—minor discoloration around the edges from having previously been framed using non-archival materials, which is typical of early works like this.  The painting is now preserved with acid-free matting.

Provenance: this Original Painting of a Buffalo Hunt by Ma Pe Wi of Zia Pueblo is from a private collection

Recommended Reading: Southwest Indian Painting: A Changing Art by Clara Lee Tanner

Relative Links: Zia PuebloAwa TsirehFred KabotieNative American Paintings, Velino Herrera - Ma Pe Wi

Close up view of a section of this painting.

Velino Shije Herrera, Zia Pueblo Painter
  • Category: Paintings
  • Origin: Zia Pueblo
  • Medium: watercolor
  • Size:
    8-1/4" x 12-1/4" image;
    18-⅛” x 22-⅛” framed
  • Item # C4219
  • SOLD

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