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 John Louis (Cu-ta-pu-ie) Clarke  (1881 - 1970)

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Lived/Active: Montana      Known for: wildlife wood carving-panels, Indian genre painting

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Mountain Goats with Indian head
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
There is not now and never will be another artist like John Clarke. The grandson of Malcolm Clarke, the tempetuous West Point troublemaker whose murder triggered the Baker Massacre of an innocent Blackfeet band, Clarke lived quietly but deeply in East Glacier most of his life. The Big Hotel was built on his father’s land allotment, and John’s studio-home was not far away.  He was born in Highwood, Montana.  

As a small child, apparently after surviving Scarlet Fever, John lost his hearing and ability to speak.  He was intelligent and well-educated in specialized schools for the deaf and mute, such as the North Dakota School for the Deaf at Devil’s Elbow from 1894 to 1897, the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind, now in Great Falls, from 1898 to 1899, and St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he learned to carve.  As a young man he was remarkably handsome, a trait he preserved with dignity until his death.

His fame began when his work came to the attention of W. Frank Purdy of the American School of Sculpture.  He exhibited at the Palace of Fine Arts in 1925, received a gold medal from the American Art Gallery of Philadelphia, and had a showing at the New York Academy of Design.  Louis W. Hill, of the Great Northern Railway, took a special interest and John’s goat carvings have been connected to the GN logo, a mountain goat silhouette on a crag.  He also loved to carve bears.

His Blackfeet name is “Cu-ta-pu-ie,”  the Man Who Talks Not.  Maybe he didn’t speak aloud, but his fingers flew in sign talk as well as carving and painting.


Submitted by Mary Scriver


Source: New Interpretations by Dale Burk, Copyright 1969.  Stoneydale Press.

Biography from Flathead Gallery:
John Louis Clarke, 1881 to 1970, was the son of Blackfeet tribesman Horace Clarke.  Scarlet fever at the age of two left him permanently deaf and mute, earning him his Blackfeet name, Cutapuis—“the man who talks not.”  Throughout his life, he patiently communicated by writing notes, using sign language, or creating art.

Clarke's artistic abilities emerged at a very early age.  In 1913 he returned to East Glacier where he opened a studio from which he operated until his death in 1970.

Clarke is usually considered self-taught, although he attended the Chicago Art Institute for a short time.  He became a most prolific artist who worked in oils, watercolors, clays, charcoals, and even crayons.  But his real fame developed from his international reputation for his sensitively executed, vibrant wood carvings of bears, mountain goats, and other wild animals of the Glacier National Park, particularly using cottonwood. 

At his artistic height, John was generally considered one of the best portrayers of Western wildlife.  He crafted a career as a renowned Blackfeet artist; his legacy survives as a worthy inspiration to all Montanans.

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