Test your knowledge with a quiz
Shije Herrera, Design
- In the early 20th century, there was new interest in Pueblo art and culture from modernist artists and the growing tourist industry. This came at a time when Indian Schools endangered Native American cultural traditions in an effort by the U.S. government to eliminate Native American ways of life and replace them with mainstream American culture.
- Beginning in 1918, informal painting classes were offered at the Santa Fe Indian School, and Velino Shije Herrera, along with fellow artists Awa Tsireh and Fred Kabotie, developed a genre of watercolor painting on paper that connected European styles with Indigenous traditions of painting. Works like Design, Tree and Birds blended traditional symbolism and forms, with elements of modernist painting to create a hybrid for non-native audiences.
- As modernist Pueblo painting grew in popularity, some of its supporters also worked to protect the rights of the Puebloan peoples, supporting organizations like The Indian Rights Association, which helped raise awareness about the devastation created through government policies and practices.
This work of art at the Newark Museum
The Modernist-Inspired Watercolors of a Pioneering Pueblo Painter
The legacy of Indian Schools, at NPR
See Pueblo pottery painting from the 1930s
Explore primary sources on government policies towards Native Americans in the early 20th century
Learn more about the Indian Rights Association
Velino Shije Herrera at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Pablita Velarde’s Paintings of Traditional Pueblo Culture
Jessica L. Horton and Janet Catherine Berlo, “Pueblo Painting in 1932 Folding Narratives of Native Art into American Art History” in A Companion to American Art, edited by John Davis, Jennifer A. Greenhill, and Jason D. LaFountain (Wiley, 2015)
More to think about
Modern Native American artists like Clarissa Rizal and Jamie Okuma have blended their native traditions with contemporary style or meaning. What makes a work of art “traditional”? What other examples can you think of where an artist has blended their own culture with mainstream forms or techniques?