Harrison Begay was born in White Cone, AZ, on November 15, 1917 and is a Native American Navajo painter. He was a prolific artist for over 50 years, and his work is familiar through paintings, book illustrations and screen prints, making him perhaps the best-known contemporary Native American painter.
In 1934 he entered the Santa Fe Indian School and joined the ‘Studio’ of Dorothy Dunn (1903–1990), where he was one of Dunn’s star students. In 1939, the year of his graduation, he painted one of the murals on the facade of Maisel’s trading post in Albuquerque, NM.
In recognition of his contributions to Native American art he was awarded the French government’s Palmes Académiques in 1954. Due to the public’s ready acceptance of his paintings, after his return from military service in World War II he became one of the first Native American artists to support himself by painting full-time.
Widely exhibited, he was a consistent award-winner at exhibitions, and his work has been included in every important public and private collection of Native American art. Begay painted a timeless, peaceful and gentle world, recognizing only the beauty in the Navajo way of life. His genre scenes, rendered in soft tones, speak of peace and serenity . Although his prodigious output included facile minor works tending towards sentimentality, his major work is characterized by inventiveness, originality, refinement and delicacy. At his best he was a keen observer, and his drawings of horses and deer are sensitive and expressive.
Source: Native American Art
Artist: Harrison Begay (1917-2012)Description: Gouache | Image Size: 30”h x 36”w; Framed Size: 39 1/8”h x 46 ½”w
The Yeibichai are supernatural beings who reshaped the earth into a habitable one. The Diné, or Navajo, were then created in the image of the Yei and were taught to live in harmony with the universe. Sacred ceremonies are performed to maintain that harmony, especially when it has become disrupted. Here, Harrison Begay has depicted the final night’s Yeibichai Dance of the Nightway Ceremony which restores harmony. In order to preserve the power of the ceremony, not all of its elements are fully shared.
The Talking God Yeibichai, the leader of the dance, can be seen lower right wearing a white mask with a headdress of twelve eagle feathers, a spruce ruff around his neck, a deer skin sash across his body and holding a pelt in his right hand. The male Yei wear blue masks with a gourd fitted to the mask for breathability and only two eagle feathers. They also don spruce ruffs around their necks, colorful kilts, concho belts with a fox pelt hanging behind and garters holding up their leggings; the exposed areas of their bodies are covered in white clay. They hold spruce branches or feathers on the left and gourd rattles on the right. The female Yei depicted wear traditional dress. On the upper left, the clown provides comic relief during the dance. Attired similarly to the male Yei, the clown twirls a fox pelt in his right hand.
Navajo Circle Dance
Artist: Harrison Begay (1917-2012)