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Pablita Velarde The Deer Herd


Item Number: DR 5119
Pueblo: Santa Clara
Artist: Pablita Velarde
Medium: Masonite with vegetal and mineral paints
Age: Circa 1960-1970s
Dimensions:  28 ¾” X 18 ½” original frame    unframed 10” X 20”



This original early painting was created by Pablita Velarde, who was one of the first pueblo women to build a career as a painter.  Most of Velarde’s works that are available on the market today are ceremonial scenes.  This wonderful and unique painting offers a snapshot of very early life at Bandolier. Pablita Velarde painted a series of paintings for Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico (1939-1948). Following the forest fire in 2011, the paintings have been put in storage for their protection.

The wonderful pictographs from the Frijoles Canyon at Bandolier provided the inspiration for “The Deer Herd”. In 1939 Gustave Baumann created twenty-six woodcuts depicting canyon’s cave drawings to illustrate his book, Frijoles Canyon Pictographs. Pablita used the visuals from Baumann’s book as inspiration for this most unusual painting.

Written on a piece of Packard’s stationery in Pablita’s handwriting and taped on the back of the painting is the following:

“The Deer Herd
These pictographs are from Frijoles Canyon.
Archeologist had dated the inhabitants who occupied these caves some five hundred years ago.
A man named Gustave Baumann made rubbings of them and recorded some of them in 1939.”

She would first draw her designs on Masonite panels that were treated with a coat of pumice. She created her earth paints using mineral and rock elements, which she ground on a metate and mano until the result was a powdery substance. Pablita then used her ground-up minerals as paint to fill in the areas she had drawn. To mix her paints, she combined the pigment with water and glue, and then painted with paintbrushes. She would paint each color up to seven layers to gain the consistency she desired. She then would outline the images, once again as many as seven or so times, to insure they were a strong black. The colors in The Deer Herd are simple white, black and brown, which create a very striking contrast emphasizing the outlines of the pictographs.

Pablita Velarde’s paintings are artistically important, as well as being ethnographically important. Her paintings capture the history and culture of the Pueblo people with a careful eye to the fine details of their culture. She did not begin putting a date on her paintings until the 1980s.

Condition: Excellent – original condition.
Provenance: Acquired from a private collector through Santa Fe Art Auction.