Gallery Artists > Tonita Pena Biography :

Tonita Pena (1895 - 1949)  Artworks >>

Born in San Ildefonso Pueblo, Tonita Pena showed early art talent by the age of seven in the San Ildefonso Day School. She became the first Pueblo Indian easel painter, and doing genre painting of local village life, she broke away from the stereotype of only men doing narrative painting. At that time, women's artwork was mostly geometric patterns, but her village scenes were lively and animated, and her figures were modeled forms. She is credited with liberating Indian women to paint whatever they wanted. In her art, she was encouraged by her family, her teachers, her three husbands, and New Mexico archaeologist and Museum Director Edgar Hewitt and painter Kenneth Chapman. Hewitt gave her art supplies and purchased her paintings, and art instructor Dorothy Dunn gave her classes at the Santa Fe Indian School. A resident of Chochiti Pueblo after she married, she managed to find time to paint daily in addition to her domestic chores of raising eight children. She later taught at the Santa Fe Indian School. Source

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