Oscar Howe, Dakota Indian Painter


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Oscar Howe (1915-1983) Mazuha Hokshina Trader Boy - signature

The works of Yanktonai Dakota Indian artist Oscar Howe rank among the most valuable and collectible Native American paintings. Howe's initial formal training came from Dorothy Dunn, and his early works most definitely reflect that experience. Howe was not content to continue working in the traditional styles, and so he developed his own. Howe's experiments with abstraction and dynamic color were unlike anything being produced at the time. After being rejected by a 1958 Native American art show at the Philbrook Museum, Howe wrote a now-famous letter in which he expressed his philosophy: "Are we to be held back forever with one phase of Indian painting that is the most common way? Are we to be herded like a bunch of sheep, with no right for individualism, dictated to as the Indian has always been, put on reservations and treated like a child and only the White Man know what is best for him... but one could easily turn to become a social protest painter. I only hope the Art World will not be one more contributor to holding us in chains." Howe's well-worded protest aided his efforts to introduce contemporary styles into the world of Native American art. He continued incorporating traditional ideas and images into his decidedly contemporary works, however, and he did so with such skill that he was ultimately able to succeed within and far beyond the established world of Native art. Today, he is regarded as one of the most important and influential Native American painters.

Oscar Howe (1915 - 1983) Mazuha Hokshina - Trader Boy attended the Santa Fe Indian School under the direction of Dorothy Dunn. He was from the Yanktonai [Dakota or part of the Plains Indians group]. "While a child in government boarding school, the artist developed a serious skin disease and trachoma. He was sent home and given little chance to escape blindness and disfiguration, but he vowed to get well and 'be the best'. He returned to school and completed his education." -Snodgrass 1968

Reference: The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters by Patrick D. Lester.

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