In the artist’s hand, verso: “Hunting Son–Firelight. Son of one of the first Indians I ever painted. J.H. Sharp. Taos, Sept. 1927.”
After Sharp’s death in 1953, Ernest Blumenschein wrote a long letter to Dr. Reginald Fisher, Director of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art in Santa Fe. As quoted in Forrest Fenn’s Teepee Smoke, Blumenschein wrote: “Perhaps some of Sharp’s conscientious true-to-nature portraits, unaffected by an artist’s personality of imagination, will be exactly what posterity will want–even much prefer to the paintings of the rest of the group whose object in painting was not Indians, but art. (Please think of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, etc.)” (p. 302.)
You can see what Blumenschein meant in a portrait like Hunting Son–Firelight. The hanging drum, peace pipe, the second drum at Hunting Son’s side, the spirit shadow cast on the hung drapery, all these indicate art, ceremony, religion, but your eye doesn’t rest on these. Instead, it moves to Hunting Son’s face, takes in the artist’s care to capture the model’s fine features and aquiline nose, and to make certain that light and shadow bring his profile into sculpted relief. Not only are you seeing Sharp’s hand, but also the hands of thousands of painters in infinite regression to the caves in France and Spain.
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