|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
Born in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona and raised in a hogan on the Navajo Reservation, R.C. Gorman became one of the Southwest's best known late 20th-century artists. His signature works were Navajo women in a variety of poses. Many persons have been fascinated by the fact that he, an Indian artist, became famous in the white man's world with some calling him the "Picasso of Indian artists". Of this kind of attention, he said: "I wish people would quit pushing my being Indian. The only time I was interviewed as If I were a normal person was by the Jewish Press in Tucson. It was the first time I felt international and almost white". (Samuels 222)
His parents were Carl Nelson Gorman, artist, and Adella Katherine Brown. He abandoned the name "Rudolph" and signed his artwork with the initials R.C. He grew up during the Depression years, and he later said his first materials were "sand, rocks, and mud." His father, Carl, was one of the first Indian artists to depart from tradition and paint from his own personal expression, but R.C. seldom saw his father during his early childhood because he was away during the war, serving in the South Pacific as one of the Code Talkers---Navajos who used their language as secret code to foil the enemy..
Women, particularly his maternal grandmother, were primary influences and remain the focus of most of his paintings and prints. She spent much time with him during his childhood, and they herded sheep together, and he often drew on the rocks including a depiction of a nude woman that brought him a scolding. She told him the Navajo traditions and legends, sang the old songs, and taught him about plants and animals.
His mother, who had been sent away to government schools, directed him more towards the Anglo world and spoke to him only in English. She oversaw his education, and he first attended Chinle Public School. At age 10, he went to Flagstaff, shipped there in a cattle car with his mother, to work in the Navajo Ordnance. On the way, he saw his first painting at a stop at Hopiland at Moencopi Trading Post, and couldn't get it out of his mind.
After that he attended St. Michael's, a Catholic boarding school on the Navajo Reservation, from where he was expelled. Next he went to Ganado Presbyterian Mission School where well-known Southwest trader Don Lorenzo Hubbell had a trading post nearby and was a key figure in helping with the organizing of the school. A Dr. Clarence Salsbury was Director of Education and encouraged Gorman with his unique talents, which were recognized by many students and faculty members. Many years later, in 1978, The College of Ganado awarded Gorman an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, which he later said was the highest honor he had received.
He went to college in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University, and in 1951 enlisted in the Navy for four years during the Korean War, but never quit drawing. In 1955, he re-enrolled at Northern Arizona University, studying literature and art, and illustrated for a school magazine.
A trip to Mexico and later a year long study scholarship really excited him, especially viewing murals by Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros, and sculpture by Zuniga because these artists were depicting realistic people. Their works were a catalyst for his decision to paint likenesses and create lithographs of people from his own heritage.
However, Gorman did not stay long on the Navajo reservation. In 1962, he left and would return only for visits. He moved to San Francisco where he had successful exhibitions of his work and earned the patronage of Charles and Ruth de Young Elkus, who encouraged young Indian talent.
In 1964, he went to Taos, New Mexico, and shortly after had an exhibition there in the Manchester Gallery. He returned to San Francisco where he went through a period of doing surreal landscapes but made frequent trips to Taos. He also had several joint exhibitions with his father, Carl Gorman, and in 1968 purchased the Manchester Gallery in Taos, renaming it the Navajo Gallery. From then it was his studio and home.
In the 1970s, he became a nationally known artist, and visitors to the Southwest were taking his work to all parts of the country. He also opened a gallery in Tubac, Arizona, about 40 miles south of Tucson, and conducted numerous workshops. During that decade, he first experimented with lithography, studying with Jose Sanchez in Mexico City. He did etchings, silk screen, sculpture, and ceramics and also began his pastel, watercolor wash full-bodied Indian women that became his trademark. Of this subject matter, he said: "I choose models who have full bodies--something you can put your two arms around and feel a real woman. I like the ample figure because it fills space softly" (Monthan, "R.C. Gorman, 29).
His daily work schedule has been one of arriving at his studio about 8:30 AM, working intensely, eating a long lunch with a glass of wine, returning to work for an hour or so, and then disappearing until the next day.
Doris Monthan, R.C. Gorman, A Retrospective; Peggy and Harold Samuels, Contemporary Western Artists
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Navajo artist R.C. (Rudolph Carl) Gorman died on November 3, 2005 at a
hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico of pneumonia related to a blood
infection. He was a long-time resident of Taos, New Mexico and
"best known for his paintings, sculptures and lithographs depicting
American Indian women---typically corpulent, barefoot and wrapped in
shawls or blankets. . . . While some critics dismissed Mr. Gorman as a
commercial artist who prized quantity over quality, others praised his
flowing line; his warm, saturated colors; and the strength and
spirituality and universality of his subjects."|
Margalita Fox, "R.C. Gorman, Painter Of Strong Navajo Women", The New York Times, November 5, 2005, A15
|Biography from American Design Ltd.:|
|Rudolph Carl Gorman, a native American, was born in Chinle,
Arizona. During his early years he lived in a hogan and had
little experience with the world beyond the Navajo reservation.
He was raised by his grandmother who ignited his ambition by recounting
Navajo legends and by acquainting him with his artistic ancestors. |
In 1958 he received the first scholarship ever given by the Navajo
tribe for study outside the United States. At Mexico City
College, Gorman had exposure to the artists Rivera, Siqueiros, and
Tamayo, who inspired him to change the direction of his art. He
also met Jose Sanchez, a master printer, and, under his direction, made
his first lithographs.
Gorman has had more than twenty one-man shows and participated in
thirty group shows, including the exhibit Masterworks of the American
Indian held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (he was the
only living artist represented). That museum is one of fourteen
American art institutions to include his work in their collections.
|Biography from Adobe Gallery:|
|R. C. Gorman (1932-2005) - Navajo was
reservation raised. He received a scholarship from the Navajo Tribe in
1958 to study in Mexico at the University of the Americas. The strong
influence of Mexican artists Tamayo, Rivera, and Zuniga is evident in
his work. The classic simplicity of Zuniga's work is so apparent in
the drawings of Navajo women by Gorman.
R. C. Gorman was probably the most famous Navajo artist. He was
charming, flamboyant and fascinating. He had spent most of his adult
life in Taos, New Mexico where he lived and worked. .
|Biography from Artistic Gallery:|
|R.C. Gorman used three mediums - drawing, painting, and sculpting. |
The whole body of his work is directed toward the Indian - Navajo women moving placidly among their chores.
Gorman was born on the Navajo reservation in Chinle, Arizona in 1931 into a family of artisans. In 1955 after his U.S. Army discharge, Gorman enrolled in Northern Arizona University. In 1958, he received the first scholarship ever given by the Navajo tribe for study outside the United States.
He attended Mexico City College for a brief time, and this exposure caused a change in the direction of his art.
He has exhibited in untold numbers of one-man shows throughout the United States and the world. In 1973, he was the only living artist to be included at the show "MASTERWORKS OF THE MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Gorman's work is in many permanent museum collections. including The Museum of Indian Arts, San Fransisco, CA; The Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ; Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, AZ; Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa, OK; U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN; and the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art.
His private celebrity collectors include Erma Bombeck, Former Senator Barry Goldwater, David Hartman, Martha Hyer, Lee Marvin, Gregory Peck, and Ruth Warwick.
R.C. Gorman died of pneumonia on Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 12:20 pm MST, after a lengthy illness. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico made the announcement at a news conference in Santa Fe. The Governor ordered flags in New Mexico to be flown at half-staff.
Gorman was legendary for his drawings, paintings and sculptures of colorful, blanketed, generously sized women. Gorman was quoted as stating, “I revere women…they are my greatest inspiration.”
New Mexico Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman said that “Gorman will be remembered as one of the greatest Native American artists.”
A rosary was held on Sunday, November 6th and his funeral was on Monday, November 7th at 10am in Taos, New Mexico. He was buried in the cemetery on his property near his home in Taos.
Those of us who knew him, will always remember his humor, his personality and his beautiful artwork.
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