Published on August 8, 2012 by Amy
Monroe Tsatoke (1904–1937) was a Kiowa painter, one of the Kiowa Five, from Oklahoma.
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Monroe Tsatoke was born on 29 September 1904 in Oklahoma Territory, near present day Saddle Mountain, Oklahoma. Tsatokee was his Kiowa name, which meant “Hunting Horse.” His father was also named Tsatokee, and was a Kiowa scout. His grandmother was a European-American captive.
Tsatoke never received art instruction until Susan Peters, the Kiowa agency field matron arranged for Mrs. Willie Baze Lane, an artist from Chickasha, Oklahoma to teach painting classes for young Kiowas in Anadarko. Recognizing the talent of some of the young artists, Peters convinced Swedish-American artist, Oscar Jacobson, director of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art to accept the Kiowa students into a special program at the school.
The Kiowa Five included six artists: Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smoky, and Monroe Tsatoke. James Auchiah was the last to join the group at OU in 1926.
The Kiowa Fives’ first major breakthrough into international fine arts’ world was the 1928 First International Art Exposition in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Dr. Jacobson arranged for their work to be shown in several other countries and for Kiowa Art, a portfolio of pochoir prints artists’ paintings to be published in France.
Tsatoke took additional art classes at Bacone College and worked at Indian City USA in Anadarko as a guide.
In 1924, Tsatoke married Martha Kooma. Together they four children; Jewell, Lee Monette, Ross Maker, and John Thomas. Lee Tsatoke also became a respected Kiowa artist. Monroe and Martha lived in Red Rock, Oklahoma. Besides painting, Tsatoke also farmed, sang at Kiowa ceremonials, and was a fancy war dancer.
He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and joined the Native American Church. He painted about his religious experiences and is credited with creating stylized representations of symbols associated with Church, such as the water birds and feathers.
In 1934, the Oklahoma Historical Society commissioned him to paint several murals. Although he was sick with tuberculosis, he worked on the murals until his death. Tsatoke died on 3 February 1937 from tuberculosis, at the age of 32 years old.