Oscar Howe

1915-1983

Oscar Howe (1915-1983) was a renowned Native American artist who is best known for his innovative and expressive depictions of traditional Dakota culture and mythology. Born on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota, Howe grew up immersed in his heritage and was deeply influenced by the rich visual traditions of his people.

Despite facing significant obstacles as a Native American artist in a predominantly white art world, Howe persevered and became one of the most respected and celebrated artists of his generation. Howe experimented with a wide range of artistic styles and techniques, eventually developing a highly individualized style that blended traditional Dakota imagery with contemporary abstract forms. He drew inspiration from the geometric designs and bright colors of Dakota beadwork and quillwork, as well as from the bold, sweeping lines of modernist painting.

Throughout his career, Howe created a vast body of work that included paintings, drawings, prints, and murals, as well as sculptures and installations. His art was exhibited widely in galleries and museums across the United States and Europe, and he received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the field. Despite facing discrimination and marginalization throughout his life, Oscar Howe remained committed to his artistic vision and his cultural heritage.

In 2022, a major exhibition titled “Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe” opened at the National Museum of the American Indian, New York which reintroduced Howe’s work to contemporary audiences. The exhibition subsequently traveled to the Portland Art Museum in Oregon and will be on view at the South Dakota Art Museum at South Dakota State University from June 10, 2023 to September 17, 2023.

Oscar Howe and John “Leonard” Jennewein were good friends/colleagues at Dakota Wesleyan University, where Jennewein was a professor of history and of English from 1953 until his death in 1968. This piece of Howe’s artwork was to be adapted to copy paper letterhead. It Is unknown if this ever happened.

Past Lots

Oscar Howe (1915-1983, Yanktonai Dakota), "Camte waste, no no wa" ("Good Heart Forever"), Gouache on paper, Sheet: 18.5" H x 24.625" W; Sheet: 20.25" H x 26.25" W

Sold: $325,000

Oscar Howe (1915-1983, Yanktonai Dakota), "Koda, Nape Ciuza" ("Friend, I Shake Your Hand"), 1966, Gouache on paper, Image: 20.625" H x 21.375" W; Sheet: 22.375" H x 23.375" W

Sold: $225,000

Oscar Howe (1915-1983, Yanktonai Dakota), Smoke signals, circa 1953

Sold: $40,000

Oscar Howe (1915-1983, Yanktonai Dakota), Blessings for fertility, circa 1957

Sold: $20,000