Joseph H. Sharp

(1859 - 1953)


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Joseph H. Sharp

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Traveling throughout the Plains he painted about 200 portraits.

Born in Bridgeport, Ohio, Joseph Sharp is 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 was one of the first Caucasian artists to visit New Mexico, arriving in Santa Fe in 1883. He was also a visitor to Alaska, being one of the early artists who visited there after the purchase of the Territory. Although Sharp was completely deaf from a childhood accident, 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. His studio was in the same building as that of Henry Farny, who gave him books on Pueblo Indians.

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 that included New Mexico, California, and Washington. During this time, he did numerous paintings of Indian figures to record their disappearing culture.

In 1886, he returned to Europe for more study and enrolled at the Academy in Munich with Karl Von Marr. He also traveled with Frank Duveneck, the famous Cincinnati artist, through Spain and Italy. From 1892 to 1902, he taught classes at the Cincinnati Art Academy, and from 1895 to 1896, attended the Academie Julian in Paris where he met Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Geer Phillips, who later joined him in Taos.

Joseph Sharp first went to Taos in 1893; his sketches from that trip were published in Harper’s Weekly. He began making summer trips west to sketch Indians, and in 1902, he painted in Arizona, California, Wyoming, and Montana.

An admiring President Teddy Roosevelt had a studio built for Sharp at the Custer Battle Field site. From there Sharp traveled throughout the Plains to paint about 200 portraits of living Indians who had been in that battle. To achieve these paintings, he endured much severe weather and physical hardship.