Chief White Grass was a renowned medicine man among the Blackfeet, who went by the nickname of “Shorty.” Sharp regarded him as the “foremost chief of several generations. He defended his people with great dignity, love and respect.” (Fenn, 2007, 196) Sharp made him look especially wise with his enigmatic expression and absolutely regal in his stylish buffalo robe coat.
The photographer Walter McClintock described Chief White Grass as well-built in addition to “neat in dress, and appearance, small in stature and good natured. He had a prominent upper lip, sharp features, and a dry and wrinkled face, which, with an air of keenness, gave him a sly, shrewd look, like an old fox.” (Grafe, 2009, 130) Sharp must have observed the same qualities as he gave Shorty White Grass a clever expression, with his eyes looking askance and his lips expressing a crafty smile.
McClintock took a portrait photograph of Shorty in 1904, a couple of years after Sharp painted his likeness. (related image 135a) In the photograph Shorty seems to be making some sort of comic gesture. The hat that he used when posing for Sharp is on the floor of his teepee to the right.
Sharp's good friend and fellow painter of Indians, Joe Scheuerle, painted White Grass several years after Sharp did. Scheuerle was able to capture White Grass' sense of impish character. (related image 135b)
Peter H. Hassrick