DescriptionJOSEPH HENRY SHARP (American, 1859-1953)
Study for The Sunset Dance, Taos
Oil on canvasboard
9-3/4 x 13-3/4 inches (24.8 x 34.9 cm)
Signed lower right: J.H. SHARP
Inscribed verso: Composition Study for /"The Sunset Dance" / Taos
Loring Andrews, Cincinnati, Ohio;
Private collection, Marshall, Texas.
From 1904 to 1927, Joseph Henry Sharp explored the theme of the Sunset Dance at the Taos Pueblo in at least fourteen paintings, including the monumental 1924 Sunset Dance-Ceremony to the Evening Sun (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.). Compositionally, Study for The Sunset Dance, Taos closely resembles another sketch from 1907 (collection of Forrest Fenn) and therefore likely relates to one of the artist's earliest depictions of this subject.
Sharp's Sunset Dance series captures the September harvest celebration held annually at the Taos Pueblo in honor of San Geronimo. A true ethnographer, Sharp here focuses on the ritual of the dance, where the procession of robed men winds from the background pueblo to stand in two rows before the mission; foreground groups of Indians observe the dance or play drums. Energizing the scene are Sharp's fluid brushwork and the interplay of purple, yellow, and pink hues, which create bold shadows as the sun sets over the Taos Mountains and cottonwood trees.
Author Blanche C. Grant's 1925 record of the evening festivities, preceding a day of footraces and other competitions, perfectly describes Study for The Sunset Dance, Taos:
When the slanting rays of the sun play their last game of light and shade over the irregular pile of adobe rooms of the pueblo, Indian men, one hundred or more, come in long lines from their estufas. One group crosses the old bridge of squared logs down near the high yellow cottonwoods, hinting at the Midas wealth of Glorieta can~on just beyond. On they come to the beat of the drum and form in double lines in front of the church door. In their hands the dancers hold branches of green and yellow signifying the full season of growth as well as their thanks to the deity who made possible the harvest-the Sun, their visible God (B. Grant, Taos Today, Taos, 1925, n.p.).
Pinpoint surface abrasion at the lower left extreme edge; otherwise, no visible condition issues; framed under glass. Framed Dimensions 13.5 X 17.5 Inches
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