Published on June 10, 2014 by Carol
(Harrison Begay was born in White Cone, AZ, 15 Nov 1917).
Native American Navajo painter. He was a prolific artist for over 50 years, and his work is familiar through paintings, book illustrations and screenprints, making him perhaps the best- known contemporary Native American painter.
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In 1934 he entered the Santa Fe Indian School (see Native north american art, §IV, 2) and joined the ‘Studio’ of Dorothy Dunn (1903–1990), where he was one of Dunn’s star students. In 1939, the year of his graduation, he painted one of the murals on the façade of Maisel’s trading post in Albuquerque, NM.
In recognition of his contributions to Native American art he was awarded the French government’s Palmes Académiques in 1954. Due to the public’s ready acceptance of his paintings, after his return from military service in World War II he became one of the first Native American artists to support himself by painting full-time.
Widely exhibited, he was a consistent award-winner at exhibitions, and his work has been included in every important public and private collection of Native American art.
Begay painted a timeless, peaceful and gentle world, recognizing only the beauty in the Navajo way of life. His genre scenes, rendered in soft tones, speak of peace and serenity . Although his prodigious output included facile minor works tending towards sentimentality, his major work is characterized by inventiveness, originality, refinement and delicacy. At his best he was a keen observer, and his drawings of horses and deer are sensitive and expressive.