Pablita Velarde

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Pablita Velarde
Born Tse Tsan
(1918-09-19)September 19, 1918
Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico, USA
Died January 12, 2006(2006-01-12) (aged 87)
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Nationality USA
Education Dorothy Dunn, Santa Fe Studio Art School
Known for Painter
Awards Palmes Académiques
Two versions of Pablita Velarde's signature.jpg

Pablita Velarde (September 19, 1918 – January 12, 2006) born Tse Tsan (Tewa, "Golden Dawn") was an American painter.

Early life[edit]

Velarde was born on Santa Clara Pueblo near Española, New Mexico.[1] After the death of her mother when Pablita was about five years old, she and two of her sisters were sent to St Catherine's Indian School in Santa Fe. At the age of fourteen, she was accepted to Dorothy Dunn's Santa Fe Studio Art School at the Santa Fe Indian School. There, she becomes an accomplished painter in the Dunn style, known as "flat painting".

Art career[edit]

Her early paintings were exclusively watercolors, but later in life she learned how to prepare paints from natural pigments (a process similar to, but not the same as fresco secco). She used these paints to produce what she called "earth paintings". She obtained the pigments from minerals and rocks, which she ground on a metate and mano until the result was a powdery substance from which she made her paints.

In 1939, Velarde was commissioned by the National Park Service under a grant from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to depict scenes of traditional Pueblo life for visitors to the Bandelier National Monument.

Following her work at Bandelier, Velarde went on to become one of the most accomplished Native American painters of her generation, with solo exhibitions throughout the United States, including in her native New Mexico, as well as in Florida and California. In 1953, she was the first woman to receive the Grand Purchase Award at the Philbrook Museum of Art’s Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Painting. In 1954 the French government honored her with the Palmes Académiques for excellence in art. In 1960 she published a book of stories and paintings, Old Father, the Storyteller.[2]

Basketmaking, c. 1940, by Pablita Velarde

In a 1979 interview she said, "Painting was not considered women's work in my time. A woman was supposed to be just a woman, like a housewife and a mother and chief cook. Those were things I wasn't interested in."

Velarde's work is exhibited in public and private collections including the Bandelier National Monument museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Avery Collection at the Arizona State Museum, the Ruth and Charles Elkus Collection of Native American Art, and in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Personal life[edit]

In 1942, Pablita married Herbert Hardin, a graduate of the University of California who she had known for some time.[3] Her daughter, Helen Hardin, and her granddaughter Margarete Bagshaw became prominent artists in their own right.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Palmes Académiques, 1954
  • New Mexico Governor's Award, 1977[4]
  • 1990 Lifetime Achievement Award - national Women's Caucus for Art [5]
  • Santa Fe Living Treasure


  1. ^ Flynn, Katheryn A., ed. ‘’Treasures on New Mexico Trails: Discover New Deal Art and Architecture’’, Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, NM, 1995 p.274
  2. ^ Farris, Phoebe (1999). Women Artists of Color: A Biocritical Sourcebook to 20th Century Artists in the Americas. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 107. ISBN 0313303746. 
  3. ^ Dunn, Dorothy (November 1952). "Pablita Velarde: Painter of Pueblo Life". El Palacio. 59 (11). 
  4. ^ "The Award Winners". New Mexico Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  5. ^


External links[edit]