This large painting is one of a pair of important works that Sharp produced over nearly a thirty-year period between 1894 and 1922. The first in the group, The Plaza, dated 1894, (related image 355a), was a major early rendition of the genre scene that provided an engaging cross-section of significant Taos men (all said to be or have been governors of the Taos Pueblo) arrayed in front of the Taos reservation store. The focus and positioning of the six figures in The Plaza speak to the varying demeanors of these men who are each compositionally repeated in the second, later rendition, The Agency Store.
When The Agency Store was exhibited in Cincinnati in 1922, the city's three major newspapers found it to be the most appealing of all sixty paintings displayed. Sharp enjoyed the attention that the painting drew and recounted a story of the two paintings to reporters from both the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Commercial Tribune:
“I sketched that scene in Taos twenty-four years ago,” said Mr. Sharp yesterday. “That was a saloon in those days and the word was written across the glass of the window. My Indian models objected, however, to having the background as a drinking place setting, so I ignored the word and you see I have painted a bag of flour out here in front and --presto! It is ‘the Agency Store.’ Incidentally, the shutters are the same ones that hung there in the old days—I found them miles from Taos. They are of the handmade variety and not hard to trace. I bought them and had them rehung for this occasion.” (Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 11/30/22)
The original version, The Plaza, which he told the other paper had been created twenty-eight years earlier, was far from a “sketch” for The Agency Store, but was certainly a model for the later work. All the figures in both paintings are dressed essentially the same except for the squatting man on the far right, Manuel Castellano. In this later version, he wears a cowboy hat rather than a wreath. The other men from left to right are Juan Concha (Record 500), Juan Andres Miraval (Gold Tooth John), Juan de Jesus Martinez, Lorenzo Martinez (Standing Bear), and G. Mirabel. (note on verso of The Plaza, courtesy Gerald Peters Gallery) (related image 214a)
The Denver Art Museum owns a painting that also portrays what could be these six men, though in a different order, The Drummers of 1906. (Record 214)
Peter H. Hassrick