In 1906 Sharp finished and then promoted this pictorial requiem to Indian demise, The Voice of the Great Spirit, in New York. It was illustrated in a full-page story on the artist and his work that appeared in the New York Herald in late December. (12/23/06) This followed a large and venturesome exhibition that Sharp had mounted at New York's Fishel, Adler & Schwartz Gallery earlier that month. Despite the fact that this oil was evidently not part of that show, his display garnered broad critical support and found great encouragement from painters whose opinions meant a great deal to him such as William Merritt Chase and Willard Metcalf. (K.C. Star 1/17/09)
The Voice of the Great Spirit has, so far as we know, a slim exhibition history. When and how Victor Evans acquired it remains a mystery. Evans is known to have been a close friend of the Hearst family and may have been following in the footsteps of Phoebe Hearst in purchasing such paintings in the early 1900s. The work is known to have been available for purchase in that period as it was exhibited at the Grace Nicholson Gallery in Pasadena in 1913. (unidentified clipping from a Pasadena newspaper; Gussie Packard Dubois, "Catches Spirit of Vanishing Indians," Sharp Papers)
In the matter of scenes from everyday Indian life, Sharp seemed to concentrate on either the depiction of motherhood, which explored themes of regeneration and birth like A Gift for Her Brave (Record 79), or burial motifs like The Voice of the Great Spirit, which played to the popular “last of their race” myth. Sharp’s interpretations of these two divergent tropes were so genuine and heartfelt that audiences could respond to both equally well.
According to Fenn (2007, 181-182), Sharp bought a single dead horse head from an old mountain man one winter evening and set it up on a pole to make studies such as those in Record 101. He also persuaded a young Crow woman, Julia Sun Goes Slow, to pose for the mourner in The Voice of the Great Spirit. An earlier portrait of Julia exists (Record 522), and a study for the finished mourner figure as well. (related image 252a)
In the early years of the twentieth century, Sharp completed several variations on the theme of Plains Indian scaffold and tree burials. Here, an important man has died. Two of the deceased man's best horses have been killed and are used to decorate the scaffold and also to provide a means of transporting the fallen, unseen protagonist into the next world.
Peter H. Hassrick