The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 118
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
truly native expressions derived from aboriginal forms but merely a passive re-
sponse to white paternalism.
One of the most influential of these white patrons during the years
1920-1958 was Leslie Van Ness Denman, wife of a San Francisco judge and
distant cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt. She made trips to the Southwest at
various seasons of the year to witness Indian ceremonial dances and to pur-
chase Indian artists' graphic interpretations of those performances from trad-
ing posts, galleries, and directly from a number of Indian painters whom she
came to know and to admire. Her collection eventually comprised 353 paintings
executed by Pueblo, Navaho, Apache, and some Kiowa Indian artists. Upon
Mrs. Denman's death in 1959 this collection was bequeathed to her friend Rene
d'Harhoncourt, for many years the manager of the Indian Arts and Crafts
Board of the U.S. Department of Interior. He presented it to that board, its
When the Rainbow Touches Down by Tryntje Van Ness Seymour, a relative of
the collector, describes and interprets the greater part of Mrs. Denman's collec-
tion, though the Zuni and Kiowa paintings are not considered. The book is sol-
idly grounded in the author's six-year study of the paintings and of the lives
and objectives of the Indians who created them, the cultural backgrounds of
these artists, and the significant roles of ceremonial dances in those cultures. Of
the 137 paintings reproduced in color, all but 15 portray Indian dancers as in-
dividual figures dressed in very colorful costumes, many wearing masks, and
carrying symbolic accessories, or as groups of dancers in motion.
The collection includes works by most of the best-known and most highly
regarded easel artists who were active before 196o including Fred Kabotie, the
Hopi student of the Sante Fe Indian School whose artistic efforts were encour-
aged by the school superintendent's wife before 192o; by Alfonso Roybal (Awa
Tsirah) of San ildefonso Pueblo, who received special recognition at the Ex-
hibition of Indian Tribal Arts in New York City in 1931; by Harrison Begay, a
Navaho artist whose works were widely diffused in the form of silkscreen
prints; and by Allan Houser, the Chiracahua Apache, who has gained wide rec-
ognition as both a sculptor and painter. Even so, Mrs. Denman collected the
works of a number of little-known Indians whose paintings she admired and
who needed her encouragement. These works were executed for sale to non-
Indians, and the patronage of Mrs. Denman and a few other whites played a
major role in the development of easel painting in the Southwest.
The reader must wonder if the example of white artists in the Southwest did
not have some influence upon this Indian art. Did the artists of the Taos School
influence the Indian ones of the Rio Grande Pueblos? Did Louis Akins, who
lived among and painted the Hopis in the early years of this century, influence
Hopi artists in their efforts to portray their dancers as solid, three-dimensional,
realistically proportioned figures? The author does not say. She does cite two of
the artists who told her that they had been influenced by that long-ago Italian
master, Michelangelo, in his rendering of human figures. This reminds us that
most of these Indian artists did attend school and had access to books contain-
ing colored reproductions of paintings by widely admired Old and New World
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/146/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.