This is possibly the last portrait Sharp painted of Laban Little Wolf, the nephew of the great Cheyenne chief of the same name. Sharp had been introduced to the Little Wolf family by his friend George Bird Grinnell, the noted historian of the Cheyenne people. According to Sharp’s note on the verso of this painting, he painted only one portrait of Laban’s famous uncle and that was in 1899 at Lame Deer, Montana. (Record 140) There was, however, a second portrait that was sold to Joseph Butler. (related image 140a) At least four others of the nephew, in addition to this one, exist. (Records 141, 150, 243, 449)
This portrait has a companion. In 1906, the year Sharp created this version of Laban Little Wolf, he also painted a pendant work, a portrait of Laban’s wife, Willow Woman. (related image 68) They were shown together at Sharp’s 1906 New York exhibition at the Fishel, Adler & Schwartz Galleries and again in 1908 in Cincinnati at the Closson Galleries.
Eight years after Sharp completed this version of Laban Little Wolf, another artist, the sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor, came to Lame Deer. He had also been encouraged by George Bird Grinnell to meet Laban Little Wolf who was by that time, 1914, the tribal chief. Proctor and his wife Margaret befriended the whole Little Wolf family. They all became so chummy that Little Wolf conferred his Cheyenne name, Okomahkahchitah, on Proctor and his wife’s name, Minoahmahho, on Margaret. (Ebner/2009/158) Proctor used Laban’s son Robert as his model for a popular bronze, Pursued, that was first cast in 1914. The sculptor also modeled a portrait bust of Robert. (related image 419a) Thus, three generations of the Little Wolf family became subjects for significant works of American art.
Peter H. Hassrick