Gallery Artists > Joseph Henry Sharp Biography :

Joseph Henry Sharp (1859 - 1953)  Artworks >>

Organizations* : Taos SA

Born in Bridgeport, Ohio, Joseph Sharp was regarded as the “father of the Taos Art Colony,” and was known for his Indian figure and genre painting as well as for exquisitely colorful landscapes. He reportedly had a cheerful nature and was an avid traveler, always seeking learning experiences about other cultures. From childhood he was interested in Indians and, at age fourteen, because of his deafness, left public school to study art in Cincinnati at the McMicken School and the Cincinnati Academy of Art.

At age 22, Sharp went to Antwerp, Belgium where he studied with Charles Verlat, and two years later he began traveling the American West, going first on a sketching trip through the Southwest, which provided him with the opportunity of recording the disappearing Indian cultures. During a later period of academic study in Paris at the Academie Julian, Sharp conveyed his enthusiasm about New Mexico to three fellow painters: Ernest Blumenschein, E.I. Couse, and Bert Phillips.

Sharp became a permanent resident of Taos in 1912, following Phillips. By that time, Sharp had achieved a national reputation as a painter of the Plains Indians. His longtime close friend and model was Jerry (Elk Foot) Mirabal. Sharp continued to travel, going frequently to Hawaii and California during the winters where he completed numerous floral landscapes. In 1899, he traveled to Montana with a wagon, nicknamed “Prairie Dog,” as a studio. There, he painted portraits and genre scenes of the Indians, particularly the Sioux, and Crow, who had figured in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In 1901, Sharp was given a commission by the Crow Agency to build a studio in Montana near the battlefield where Custer fought and to “make a visual record of Indians who had fought against Custer.” Sharp’s response was over 200 portraits from live models and photographs of more than 400.

Sharp’s landscapes are bathed in vivid color; the lush reds and rich greens of the sky contrast with the resonant lavenders of the craggy mountains. He achieved his romantic light effects by utilizing a careful network of short criss-crossed strokes that blend, when viewed from afar, into a luminous whole.

Sharp died in Pasadena on August 29, 1953. His Indian paintings are prized for their detailed accuracy, and many of them are in the collection of the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His works are also held by the Amon Carter Museum in California, the Wyoming State Art Gallery, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of New Mexico, the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio, and many other important private collections throughout the world.

Reference: The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, edited by Dr. Rick Stewart,

  • Taos SA = Taos Society of Artists
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