In this painting, two Crow women are setting up for an evening sweat, a cleansing ritual for the man of the house. He will emerge from the teepee in the foreground, ready for his bath, once the preparations are complete. It is quite similar to a larger oil of the same scene in full daylight that Sharp dated 1920, Crow Reservation—Teepees and Indian and studies he made for that work. (related images, 322 and 99)
The sweat lodge, representative of the red and white spherical structure in the center of this composition, was long a favorite subject for Sharp. Moreover, scenes of interior-lit teepees at dusk seen in Squaws Preparing Sweat Teepee fascinated the artist and challenged his skill at capturing the glow of light and the mood of a waning day. Nowhere is Sharp more successful at portraying these elements than on this small canvas.
Sharp had pictured other similar scenes as early as 1908 when he painted and had a photogravure print made of an oil titled Preparing the Chief's Sweat Lodge. (Record 426)