Set of Ten Small Untitled Hopi Pueblo Paintings [Broken Out Individually]


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Waldo Mootzka (1910-1940)

Waldo Mootzka (1910-1940) was a painter and silversmith from Hopi Pueblo.  Mootska received no formal art training. He often observed Fred Kabotie painting at Oraibi Day School, and it may have been there that he learned or became interested in watercolor painting.   So, it's not surprising that Mootzka's work displays Kabotie's influence. In the 1930s, John Louw Nelson employed Mootzka, among others, to create paintings for sale that portrayed Indians in everyday life.  Later, in Santa Fe, he was sponsored by Frank Patania, who taught him silversmithing. In 1940, Mootzka was in an automobile accident that exacerbated his tuberculosis, and he died later that year. At the time of his death, Mootzka was devoting almost all his artistic talents to silverwork.  Because of his early death, at the age of only 30 years, and his success as a jeweler, very few paintings by Mootzka are available for collectors to acquire.

Clara Lee Tanner commented on Mootzka’s art in Southwest Indian Painting: A Changing Art: “The paintings of Mootzka combine artistic quality with true recordings of Indian life.  Figures are well drawn, displaying a neat and even fragile quality in outlines. Composition of dance groups is fair.  A neat separateness of line-work may be said to characterize Mootzka’s painting . . . Subject matter treated by Mootzka is quite varied, despite his ever-Hopi emphasis on kachinas, which he presents singly or in groups . . .What he lacked in matters pertaining to background and perspective, Mootska compensated for in color and splendid detail.  Not only did he employ numerous colored papers for the sake of variety, but also he used a full palette. Although pink seems to have been a featured color, it was well handled . . . Mootska seems to have been more experimental, particularly with color. There is a great range in his pictures, in color and tone.”

Waldo Mootzka (1910-1940) signatureThis very rare set of ten small paintings of various Katsinam and dancers provides an attractive and thorough exhibition of Mootzka’s considerable skill.  The “great color and tone” that Tanner praised in her book is on full display in this group of charming, well-crafted images. Mootzka’s colors here are vivid. His compositions display skill, strength and confidence.  Some of the paintings—those which feature Pueblo-style dancers, in particular—are reminiscent of the works of the strongest New Mexico Pueblo painters. The others feature Katsinam, and so are decidedly Hopi. These, too, are of comparable quality to the works of the better-known artists.  Mootzka’s work here is excellent. Each image on its own is expertly crafted and enormously appealing. Together, they create a powerful presentation.

The manner in which they are framed is excellent, too. Each painting is mounted on a white backing, with its edges exposed, and placed within a gold frame.  All but one of the pieces is signed “Mootzka.” Mootzka’s paintings are not often available on the market, and so this set of ten identically sized pieces is a rare collecting opportunity for those who appreciate early Hopi paintings.

1- A Pueblo dancer with particularly colorful clothing carries evergreen and a rattle. There are small holes with circular impressions at top and bottom of image from being mounted with thumb tacks.  The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.

2- A Katsina with horns and a long tongue, wearing colorful clothing, holds a bow and yucca. The image was completed using translucent, bright watercolors.   The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.

3- A Katsina with red, yellow and black mask, upon which are what appear to be flowers, holds a bow and rattle. Bees fly around the flowers.  The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.

4- A Katsina with yellow body paint and purple loin cloth is pictured nearly head-on rather than in profile.  A sash hangs behind his back. He wears a gray and yellow mask and an evergreen ruff around his neck. The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.  

5- A Katsina with an elaborately designed mask is pictured in profile, mid-stride.  Mootzka used strong black outlines and an atypical color palette. The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.  

6- This Deer Dancer was completed using very strong colors—purple, green, red, yellow—and excellent linework.  It is reminiscent of the work of Awa Tsireh. The painting is unsigned.

7- A female dancer wears traditional Pueblo dress and moccasins and carries feathers. She has a gentle face and is made of bold, opaque watercolors.  The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.

8- A Katsina with bow and quiver full of arrows wears a blue, black and white mask and an animal skin over his shoulder and around his back. Mootzka completed the piece using soft purple outlines and subtle, skillful shading. The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.  

9- A Katsina with a feathered mask is pictured diagonally rather than in profile.  Mootzka used very strong colors here, including an appealing gray used in the Katsina’s mask and kilt.  The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.

10- A Katsina with horns and long tongue is pictured here.  It is very similar to #2, with different colors and slightly different wristband. The painting is signed “Mootzka” in its lower right corner.  

Condition: this Set of Ten Small Untitled Hopi Pueblo Paintings is in very good condition, some minor anomalies on the paper

Provenance: private collection

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

Waldo Mootzka (1910-1940)
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