Signs of the Season

Post by Charnell

Lord Byron said it beautifully, Oh Wind, if winter come can spring be far behind?

Now, at long last, crocuses and daffodils are peeking their colorful heads through the dreary vestiges of cold weather.  Spring is arriving here in Virginia.

1952 A Sign of Spring, print courtesy of Charnell Havens

Man and nature alike embrace spring as a time for renewal, a time of new growth, a time of new life.  And, my, how Quincy Tahoma loved this season!  His springtime paintings showed a very sensitive, very gentle side of the Navajo artist. In A Sign of Spring, a very proud stag stands guard over delicate twin fawns nestled in a cranny at the base of a large rock, while the doe looks on.

1944 Baby Antilope (sic), Courtesy of Charnell Havens

Perhaps influenced by his friend Pop Chalee, Tahoma painted many other light-hearted scenes that portray the hopefulness of spring in both the subject matter and the lighter colors and softer images that the used. These paintings may surprise people who are more accustomed to his harsher, bloody scenes of warriors and buffalo hunts.

His rendering of a baby antelope napping is perhaps one of Tahoma’s sweetest paintings. The little fellow obviously had not a care in the world, protected by the beautiful flowering bush and serenaded by five hummingbirds.

In an undated painting in a Disneylike setting, a fawn gently kisses the beaming face of a papoose while a cardinal, wise old owl, butterflies and a squirrel look on approvingly. Love and joy seem to be everywhere as mama watches from afar.

a papoose, Courtesy of Private Collector

1942 untitled Navajo mother and child, Courtesy of Martin Link

His paintings of babies included both baby animals, which are associated with spring, and human babies and their mothers.

Tahoma had a special place in his heart for young Navajo women and their babies, and he drew several similar scenes where a mother looks down lovingly at the child she holds in her arms.  The mother is always dressed in the traditional flowing skirt of the Navajo and the papoose is on a cradle board.  Lambs and sometimes additional animals surround the pair.  Everything in the scene is always in harmony —  hozho.

Vera and I have wondered if Tahoma’s penchant for repeating this scene of a young mother and her baby related to his feeling of being separated from his own family, but there are many other possible explanations. On page 146 of Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist, we say, ‘His many paintings of Navajo Madonnas and idealized families gathered around a hogan may also reflect his search for family. Departing from his usual subject matter, he (also) painted Spanish-style Madonna for both his non-Indian shimas [Navajo word for mother], Josie Montoya and Ella Silva [wife of trader Jimmy Silva].’

You will see many more images of Tahoma’s paintings of mothers, babies and families in the book, which will arrive on your doorstep NEXT MONTH, if you hit the Buy Now button over there on the right.

Although Tahoma seemed to enjoy the harsh reality of the earlier life of Indians hunting buffalo to survive, some of his fans prefer the softer side of Tahoma.  We enjoy both, but we are curious about what your favorite Tahoma style might be? Wild rides and rearing horses, bloody hunts, or quiet scenes of Spring?

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5 Responses to Signs of the Season

  1. Jane Boursaw says:

    Just lovely, lovely artwork. I never would have known about Quincy Tahoma if you hadn’t written this book and clued me in. Thanks for broadening my horizons!

  2. Pingback: Quincy Tahoma Paints Navajo Ritual | Quincy Tahoma Blog

  3. Christine says:

    These are really lovely images! I look forward to seeing more in the book.

  4. Sheryl says:

    These are such lovely photos with beautiful details; love the colors he has chosen

  5. Kristen says:

    It’s been a long winter, so I’m happy to see these images of spring. The baby antelope just has a feeling of hopefulness and peace doesn’t it?

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