Andrew Van Tsihnahjinnie, Diné Artist
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Diné of the Navajo Nation painter Artist Andrew Van Tsihnahjinnie is recognized as one of the finest of 20th Century Navajo artists. Andrew Van Tsihnahjinnie was one of the most versatile of all Southwestern Indian artists. He went through many moods, solidifying a style momentarily then turning to something new and utterly different. His subject matter stayed faithful to his heritage even as his style changed. He was chameleon-like in his ability to change and adapt. Tsihnahjinnie's best work is his portrayal of Navajo life and ceremonies. He is known for his attention to detail in paintings.
Designated an Arizona Living Treasure, this fine artist has work included in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Arizona; the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa; the Millicent Rogers Foundation Museum in Taos, New Mexico; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian Art in Santa Fe--just to name a few.
Over the period of his career, Tsihnahjinnie signed his name in several spellings. Other signatures we have seen are A. Tsinajinnie, Tsihnahjinnie and Tsinajinnie. We have used the spelling shown in Clara Lee Tanner's book which is Tsihnahjinnie for consistency in our records. Andrew Van Tsinahjinnie was also known as Yazzie Bahe (or Little Grey), Andy Tsinajinnie, Andy Tsinajinie, Andy Tsinajininie, Andy Tsinnaijinnie, Andy Van Tsinajinnie, Andrew Van Tsinajinnie, Andrew Van Tsinajinie, Andy Tsinahjinnie, Andrew Van Tsihnahjinnie.
Andrew Van Tsihnahjinnie was born near Chinle, Arizona (Rough Rock) in November 1916, and he had been drawing since he was a child. He attended elementary school at the Indian School at Fort Apache but ran away and returned to the reservation. He then attended school in Santa Fe and became a student of Dorothy Dunn at the Santa Fe Indian School. He was an avid student and was known to have stayed in the studio painting until forced to return to the dormitory. Following his graduation, he went to work as an illustrator for the Indian Service. In 1977 he suffered with a serious illness and had not been able to do much painting or teaching, but he kept his love of the old ways. Tsinahjinnie grew up herding sheep and riding horses and his love for that life was what he wanted to portray in his paintings. He was married to Minnie McGirt, and they had seven children. The video we reference below was done on October 9th, 2000. So, it was made just before his death. The video was done by Kathy Flynn, who is the Executive Director of the National New Deal Preservation Association and the New Mexico Chapter of the NNDPA (clicking will take you to another website).