Oscar Howe

Artist Profile

OSCAR HOWE: 1915-1983

Oscar Howe painting in his studio.

Oscar Howe painting in his studio.

Oscar Howe, a Dakota Indian of the Yanktonnais tribe, was born at Joe Creek on the Crow Creek Reservation of South Dakota, the son of George Tikute Howe and Ella Fearless Bear. Howe’s childhood years were spent in the poverty of reservation life, and the military school style education of the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Pierre Indian School. When he spent time with his family on the Crow Creek, his grandmother, Shell Face, would instruct him in the glories of the old days and the legends of his people.

Oscar Howe’s Talent

Oscar Howe

Oscar Howe

When Howe was very young he was fascinated with line and would spend hours drawing lines with sticks of charcoal from the wood stove or with twigs in the dust. His talent and desire were recognized and he was enrolled at the famous studio of the Santa Fe Indian School (1935-1938) where students were encouraged to take pride in their cultural heritage.

After a brief period as art instructor at the Pierre Indian School, Howe was selected to paint murals under the Works Progress Administration’s South Dakota Artist Project. He painted the dome of the Carnegie Library in Mitchell and several large murals at the auditorium in Mobridge, S.D. Howe served in North Africa and Europe during World War II. He later went on to earn his B.A. degree at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1952 where he also taught as Artist in Residence. He received his M.F.A. at the University of Oklahoma in 1954.

A Dedicated Life to the Arts

A recipient of numerous national art awards, he held many honors, including Artist Laureate of South Dakota, and exhibited his work widely. He designed the murals for the Mitchell Corn Palace for over 20 years, from 1949 until 1971. He also served as a member of the art faculty and artist-in-residence at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion from 1957 to 1961. He was accorded the status of Professor Emeritus of Art in 1980. Howe succumbed to Parkinson’s Disease in October 1983.

As a modern artist, Howe became widely recognized for his unique signature style, in which he often interpreted his heritage. The Oscar Howe Art Gallery is dedicated to the artist and features a major collection of his original casein and tempera paintings.

Visit the Oscar Howe Memorial Association

Oscar Howe Photo Gallery

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