Meadowlark Gallery: The Artist Biographies

Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953)
Joseph Henry Sharp was born in Bridgeport, Ohio in 1859 and died in Pasadena, California in 1953. He was a very important Taos painter specializing in Indian portraits, illustrator, teacher, and "the father of the Taos art colony." Sharp was educated in the public schools of Ironton and Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was raised, "interested in Indians before becoming an artist." At 14, deaf from an accident, he left public school to study art at McMicken School of Design and later at the Cincinnati Art Academy. He had a studio in the same building as Farny, who first "made me feel I didn't exactly have a right to paint Indians," then "gave me books on Pueblo Indians." At 22, he studied for a year with Charles Verlat in Antwerp. At 24, he made a sketching trip to Santa Fe, California, and the Columbia River, sketching the Indian tribes in 1883 to record the disappearing cultures. At 27, he returned to Europe to study with Karl Marr in Munich in 1886 and to accompany the Cincinnati master Duveneck to Italy and Spain. From 1892 to 1902, he taught life classes at the Cincinnati Art Academy. In 1893, Sharp made his first visit to Taos. His sketch and commentary The Harvest Dance of the Pueblo Indians was published in Harper's Weekly. In 1895 to 1896, he was at the Julien Academy in Paris, studying with Laurens and Constant, meeting Phillips and Blumenschein, influencing them toward Taos. Beginning about 1900, Sharp used his summers to sketch Indians as a "latter day George Catlin," completing the paintings in the winters. In 1901, the government commissioned him to build a studio and cabin at the foot of the Custer battlefield in Montana. Sharp painted about 200 of the Indians who battled Custer. A collection of 80 of his Indian paintings was bought for the University of California, with a commission for 15 more each year for five years. These works are part of the anthropology department, illustrating the objectivity of Sharp's view of the Indians and his respect for scientific accuracy. Sharp became a permanent resident of Taos, New Mexico in 1912. Source: Samuel's Encyclopedia of Artists of The American West by Peggy and Harold Samuels; Castle, a division of Book Sales, Inc., 1976.
View high resolution images of works by Joseph Henry Sharp when available.