Original Painting of a Pueblo Dance by Quah Ah [SOLD]


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Tonita Vigil Peña, Quah Ah, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter

Tonita Peña (1893-1949) Quah Ah was born in 1893 at the small New Mexico pueblo of San Ildefonso.  The pueblo is located on the Rio Grande, just north of Santa Fe. When Peña was just twelve years old, her mother passed away. Her father, unable to raise her while tending to his responsibilities at the pueblo, took her to live with her aunt and uncle at Cochiti Pueblo.  This was where she would spend the remainder of her life. Tonita was the only woman in the group of talented early pueblo artists referred to as The San Ildefonso Self-Taught Group, which included such noted artists as Julian MartinezAlfonso RoybalAbel SanchezCrecencio Martinez, and Encarnación Peña.  These artists were the earliest known pueblo painters. Today, their works are highly collectible not just because of their historical significance but because of their quality.

Peña is recognized as the first Pueblo Indian woman to make a living as a painter.  By the time she was 25 years old, she was a successful easel artist. Her work was being displayed in museum exhibitions and in commercial art galleries in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. She painted what she knew best—scenes of life at the pueblo.  She mostly painted ceremonial dances, and occasionally depicted everyday events. She did so with incredible skill and sensitivity. It is apparent in her works that she truly knew and respected each of the rituals she depicted. In the years since her passing she has come to be regarded as one of the greatest Pueblo Indian artists of all time.  Her works are displayed in prominent public and private collections around the country.

This untitled painting of a Pueblo dance is classic Tonita Peña: four figures, one of which is female, with a banner carrier in the lead and a drummer at the rear. She painted this scene many times during her long and prolific career, and so it has become an iconic image. That this image varies slightly with each presentation makes each one worthy of appreciation and careful study.  This piece is notable in that it feels looser than Peña’s norm. Here, she eschewed some of the details that she usually included, and focused more on color than on fine outlines. Her linework here appears to be a bit more spontaneous than usual, and the thick blocks of paint used to fill in her subjects’ bodies are not uniformly opaque.  The result is beautiful—incredibly human, crafted more with the heart than the head. This is a special piece that will undoubtedly appeal to collectors with an eye for unique takes on classic pueblo images.

Artist Signature - Tonita Vigil Peña (1893-1949) Quah AhThe painting is signed, simply, “Tonita Peña,” which identifies it as having been painted in 1920 or 1921.  It is framed beautifully underneath thick, wide matting in a three-tiered black frame.

Condition: this Original Painting of a Pueblo Dance by Quah Ah is in excellent condition
Provenance: from the collection of a New Mexico resident

Close up view.

Tonita Vigil Peña, Quah Ah, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter
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