5 Prolific Navajo Painters Who Helped Shape Modern Navajo Art

To better appreciate the beauty of modern Navajo art and culture, it is also important to educate yourself about those who made it what it is today. Here are some of the most prolific painters from Navajo Nation who created a lasting legacy in Native American art with their impressive legion of work:

Quincy Tahoma

Quincy Tahoma was a Navajo painter and muralist in addition to being one of the Indian Code Talkers who played a crucial role in World War II. His early paintings saw soft and serene tones but with time, they began to depict scenes of war and hunting. He made use of bright, vivid colors and sharp lines that reflected the style of Native American paintings in the early 20th century.

Gerald Nailor Sr.

Gerald Nailor, born in Pinedale, New Mexico, had a formal degree in art, which he obtained at the U.S. Indian School in Santa Fey. He also studied for a year under the famous Swedish muralist Olaf Nordmark. Most of Nailor’s works are characterized by a lucid imagination that stemmed from his vast knowledge of various Navajo myths. In addition to that, he was also inspired by the colorful beauty of nature and wildlife.

Harrison Begay

Harrison Begay is arguably the best-known contemporary Navajo painter. His work, spanning over 50 glorious years, includes paintings, book illustrations as well as screenprints. Begay’s paintings depict a peaceful world and the idyllic beauty of the Navajo way of life. A keen observer, his work leaned mostly towards sentimentality and expressiveness.

R.C. Gorman

C. Gorman, born in Chinle, Arizona, is one of the most famous Navajo painters. Gorman’s artistic style was a blend of subjects such as the interpretations of Navajo pottery designs and rugs but his main subject was women. Some of his most prolific works include paintings of Navajo women, whom he portrays as nurturing “earth mothers.” His style reveals influences of his time in Mexico and that of Mexican muralists.

Beatien Yazz

Beatien Yazz, a self-taught painter from the Navajo Nation, was responsible for coming up with a traditional painting style that was highly valued by art collectors. The subjects of his paintings were always inspired by Navajo culture and religion. Some of his most important pieces were watercolor paintings that contain important cultural records.

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