Painting of a San Ildefonso Pueblo Dance by Tonita Peña - C4084i
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. Peña 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 Martinez, Alfonso Roybal, Abel Sanchez, Crecencio 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 Indian artists of all time. Her works are displayed in prominent public and private collections around the country.
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