Girl Holding Kachina

Media - 1979.144.44 - SAAM-1979.144.44_2 - 117224
Copied Awa Tsireh, Girl Holding Kachina, ca. 1925-1930, watercolor, ink and pencil on paperboard, sheet: 11 186 in. (28.415.2 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Corbin-Henderson Collection, gift of Alice H. Rossin, 1979.144.44

Artwork Details

Girl Holding Kachina
ca. 1925-1930
Not on view
sheet: 11 186 in. (28.415.2 cm)
lower right in ink: Awa Tsireh back upper left in pencil: 5/142 (written sideways) back upper center in pencil: C.65 (in a box) backing mat verso upper left in pencil: B 64 (in a box)
Credit Line
Corbin-Henderson Collection, gift of Alice H. Rossin
Mediums Description
watercolor, ink and pencil on paperboard
  • Indian
  • Dress — Indian dress
  • Figure female — child — full length
  • Object — toy — doll
Object Number

Artwork Description

The paintings of Awa Tsireh (1898-1955), who was also known by his Spanish name, Alfonso Roybal, represent an encounter between the art traditions of native Pueblo peoples in the southwestern United States and the American modernist art style begun in New York in the early twentieth century. The son of distinguished potters, Awa Tsireh translated geometic pottery designs into stylized watercolors that feature the ceremonial dancers and practices of Pueblo communities. But Awa Tsireh's work is more than an amalgam of traditional and modernist design. At a time when the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs attempted to restrict Pueblo cultural and religious practices, the watercolors of Awa Tsireh and other Pueblo artists helped to affirm the importance of ceremonial dance and tirual to cultural survival.

Awa Tsireh's paintings quickly found an audience among the artists, writers, and archaeologists who descended on Santa Fe in great numbers in the late 1910s and 1920s. Painter John Sloan and poet Alice Corbin Henderson took a particular interest and arranged for his watercolors to be exhibited in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere. Henderson shared with the young Pueblo painter books on European and American modernism and Japanese woodblock prints, as well as South Asian miniatures and ancient Egyptian art that provided soure material for his stylized paintings. In this way, he redefined contemporary Pueblo art and created a new, pan-Pueblo style.

The paintings in this exhibition were donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1979 by the Hendersons' daughter, Alice H. Rossin.

Gallery Label
A kachina is a supernatural being important in the religion of the Hopi and Zuni. The kachina can be represented in physical form through masked ceremonial dancers and small figures known as kachina dolls, which are carved from wood and painted with bright earth pigments. During a kachina ceremony, the dolls are given to children as part of their religious training. It is customary to hang the dolls from roof beams so they they are constantly on view.