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Joseph Henry Sharp
Sunset Dance—Ceremony to the Evening Sun
1924
oil
25 1/8 x 30 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Arvin Gottlieb



According to Sharp, “In the past years I have seen so many things…that probably no other living artist ever saw, such as the Tobacco Dance, Graves, Burials, etc., that if I don't ever paint them, no one ever will.” This picture is a composite of Taos Indians and Pueblo architecture nestled at the base of Taos Mountain and bathed in evening light and shadow. Sharp included in the foreground a basket of ceramic Tesuque rain gods, made in another area of New Mexico exclusively for tourist trade, yet no tourists are in sight. Sharp was fascinated with the Taos Indians when he first visited in 1893 and he relocated to Taos in 1912. When asked why he liked to paint Indians, Sharp replied: “When I came to know them I liked them for themselves. Perhaps they attracted me as subjects to paint because of their important historical value as the first Americans.”