This is a remarkable painting, one that fully documents Sharp’s several years among the Blackfeet in northwestern Montana. Between 1902 and 1905 and again in 1907, Sharp chose as his primary summer subject the Blackfeet people who lived on the plains east of the Lewis Range of the Rocky Mountains. He was especially enamored of two unique ethnographic objects, a dance robe worn by a celebrated medicine man, Bull Child (Record 361), and a buffalo hide teepee owned by Chief Many White Horses. (Records 131 and 364) Sharp had hoped to acquire both treasures for his personal collection but was only able to buy the teepee. That structure appears in the foreground of this painting and became one of Sharp’s most valued artifacts in about 1905. He employed it over his career as a motif for his paintings and as an alternate studio for painting exterior and interior scenes of daily life such as A Gift for Her Brave. (Record 79)
The year Sharp painted this Blackfeet Encampment, he also photographed a scene including his favorite Blackfeet teepee. That image was used on the back of a catalogue brochure for a one-man exhibition, Indians and Western Paintings, that he organized in Pasadena in 1915. (related image 568a) In the painting, he also included a Sun Dance Lodge, the center of social and spiritual life, just as his contemporary Walter McClintock had done at about this time. (related image 568b) Like Sharp’s painting, McClintock’s photograph also includes a hint of the Lewis Range in the distance.
This painting was not the sole depiction of Many White Horses’ — soon to be Sharp’s — rare hide teepee. He painted at least one other known, though somewhat smaller, in situ rendition titled Blackfoot Camp with Many White Horses' elegant home featured among a group of other teepees. (related image 568c) That sketch was given to Carolyn Riebeth, daughter of the agent on the Crow Reservation, Samuel G. Reynolds. (see Minckler, 2010, 44)
The Autry Museum owns the teepee today. It was given to the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles sometime before the artist's death.
Peter H. Hassrick