Blanket Bull, Crow Papoose is an example of one of Sharp’s collections of figure studies. He would complete these studies in order to practice, or experiment with, portions of planned larger works. This was a long-standing academic practice which Sharp likely participated in both at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati and then later when he traveled to Europe on multiple occasions for further schooling in Antwerp, Munich, and Paris. Typically, genre, landscape, and historical painters would go out into the environment and paint these types of sketches, compile them, and upon bringing them back to their studio would insert them (usually by copying them) into their larger canvases.
Often, Sharp would complete a painting in one sitting either en plain air (outdoors), allay prima (“wet on wet” painting), or a combination of both. However, when this was not an option, or the composition called for more careful planning, Sharp would produce studies such as Blanket Bull, Crow Papoose. These studies might not be specifically placed into works and could just serve as practice sketches. In the case of this canvas, it is unclear whether Sharp ever directly used any of these images of Blanket Bull in a larger composition, but Sharp did at one point mention the process of painting the child.
In one of the artist’s written descriptions about his works and the people in them, Sharp writes about Blanket Bull and mentions that his mother would sometimes leave the baby with him during the day. Sharp would then paint the child in various positions. He notes that “I would hang him on wall to paint full length, and when sleepy laid him on floor for others. The many times I had him he never whimpered once.” Examples of Blanket Bull in both these positions can be seen on this canvas, as well as the “Fine red and blue flannel papoose bag” that Sharp mentions in his description. He also writes that the figure of the baby that appears in his painting A Gift for her Brave (Record 79) was Blanket Bull. When comparing the two paintings, it looks as though Sharp may have referenced the rightmost image from Blanket Bull, Crow Papoose in his process of painting A Gift for her Brave, although it is impossible to say definitively.