As Sharp began to age, his body could not handle winters in Montana and his doctors advised him to stay in warmer climates. Thus, in his later years, Henry and Louise stopped going to Montana almost entirely (around 1923, though he returned in 1926) and shifted to warmer landscapes like Pasadena and Hawaii. While Sharp found Pasadena uninspiring when it came to painting, he produced a decent number of canvases during his trips to Hawaii. A Scene Near Diamond Head, Honolulu, Hawaii is one such painting.
In this work, Sharp departs from his traditional western landscapes, often peppered with Indian figures and teepees, and brings to life part of the Hawaiian Coast, near Koko Crater. The painting shows Sharp’s mastery of color. In his Indian portraits, landscapes, and scenes of daily life, rarely did the artist have the opportunity to apply such pure color to the canvas. Here, the result is more an expert tonal exploration of blues and reddish-browns, rather than the rich multicolor compositions that Sharp produced between Montana and Taos. This difference reflects Sharp’s ability to adapt to the environment in which he painted, very much akin to the differences between his tonalist winter landscapes (Record 315), painted in Montana, and his impressionist scenes of southwestern aspen trees (Record 319). Sharp’s artistic versatility allowed him to accurately capture the sensation of being in a specific place at the moment he rendered the painting in question.
A Scene Near Diamond Head, Honolulu, Hawaii [Koko Crater Coast] and other works Sharp completed in Hawaii between 1930 and 1938 were not always easy to paint, however. Sharp noted the difficulties of painting in Hawaii in a letter to Mary Cornwell. In order to capture the scene and composition, Sharp sometimes had to stand in a boat to paint. He wrote, “…people only see or not the result, and do not know or care what one goes thru to get it” (letter from JHS to Mary Cornwell, 3/5/1936). Sharp’s dedication to accurately capturing his surrounding environment thus extended beyond his painting ability, much as it did when he spent his time painting in his covered wagon during Montana’s harsh winters.