R. C. Gorman

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R. C. Gorman
Rudolph Carl Gorman

(1931-07-26)July 26, 1931
DiedNovember 3, 2005(2005-11-03) (aged 74)
NationalityNavajo Nation
United States
EducationArizona State College (now Northern Arizona University);
Mexico City College (now Fundación Universidad de las Américas, Puebla)
Known forArtist
Oil painter
Natoma, patinated bronze sculpture of a Navajo dancer by R. C. Gorman, East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii

Rudolph Carl Gorman (July 26, 1931 – November 3, 2005) was a Native American artist of the Navajo Nation. Referred to as "the Picasso of American Indian artists" by The New York Times,[1] his paintings are primarily of Native American women and characterized by fluid forms and vibrant colors, though he also worked in sculpture, ceramics, and stone lithography. He was also an avid lover of cuisine, authoring four cookbooks, (with accompanying drawings) called Nudes and Food.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Rudolph Carl Gorman was born in Chinle, Arizona. His mother was Adelle Katherine Brown[3] and his father Carl Nelson Gorman. [1] His father, Carl, was one of the original twenty-nine Navajo Code Talkers. He, with his colleagues, developed the unbreakable code American forces used in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Carl later studied at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and was a technical illustrator for Douglas Aircraft. He also founded a silk-screen design company and taught Indian art at the University of California at Davis. [World War II].[4]

R. C. Gorman grew up in a traditional Navajo hogan and began drawing at age 3.[5] His grandmother helped raise him, recounting Navajo legends and enumerating his genealogy of artist ancestors. She kindled his desire to become an artist. While tending sheep in Canyon de Chelly with his aunts, he used to draw on the rocks, sand, and mud, and made sculptures with the clay, with his earliest subjects including Mickey Mouse and Shirley Temple.

He credited a teacher, Jenny Lind at Ganado Presbyterian Mission School, for his inspiration to become a full-time artist.[5] After he left high school, he served in the United States Navy before entering college, where he majored in literature and minored in art at Northern Arizona University.

In 1958, he received the first scholarship from the Navajo Tribal Council to study outside of the United States, and enrolled in the art program at Mexico City College.[6] There he learned of and was influenced by the work of Diego Rivera. He later studied art at San Francisco State University, where he also worked as a model.


Gorman moved from California to New Mexico, opening the Navajo Gallery in Taos in 1968. It was the first Native American-owned art gallery[7].[citation needed]

In 1973, he was the only living artist whose work was shown in the “Masterworks of the American Indian" show held at Metropolitan Museum in New York City. One of his pieces was selected for the cover of the exhibit's catalog.

Gorman's work was explored in a series on American Indian artists for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Other artists in the series included Helen Hardin, Charles Loloma, Allan Houser, Joseph Lonewolf, and Fritz Scholder.[8]

Later life[edit]

In 1998, he donated art for Tom Udall's campaign for election to the U.S. House of Representatives.[citation needed] On April 1, 2003, Gorman donated his personal library to Diné College at the request of the college's president, Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet.[9]

On September 18, 2005, Gorman fell at his home and was taken to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos. On September 26, he was transferred to University of New Mexico Hospital (in Albuquerque). He died at age 74 on November 3. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson ordered flags flown at half-staff in his honor.


Gorman learned about the work of the Mexican social realists: Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo.[10] He became inspired by their colors and forms to change from abstraction to abstract realism. He used abstract forms and shapes to create his own unique, personal realistic style, recognizable to all who are acquainted with his work. While in Mexico, he also learned stone lithography from a master printer, Jose Sanchez. He used lithography throughout his life as a means of making original multiple images of his inspirations, often working by drawing directly on the stones from which the lithographs were printed.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, College of Ganado, Ganado, Arizona (1978)
  • R. C. Gorman Day, State of New Mexico (January 8, 1979)
  • Doctorate of Humane Letters, Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, New Mexico (1980)
  • R. C. Gorman Day, San Francisco, California (March 18, 1986)
  • Humanitarian Award in Fine Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (May 1986)
  • New Mexico’s Governor’s Award of Excellence (1989)[11]
  • Named a "Living Legend" by Ralph Oliver (1990)[12]
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona (1995)
  • Alumnae of the Year Award, National Association of Colleges and Universities (November 1993)
  • Honorary United Nations 50-year Chairman for New Mexico (1995)
  • Camino Real Award, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1995)
  • Los Amigos del Turismo Cultural Award, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1996)
  • A Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him (2002).[13]
  • After Gorman's death, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson ordered flags flown at half-staff in his honor (2005)


  1. ^ "Notes on People". The New York Times. 4 May 1979. p. 26. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  2. ^ Gorman, R. C with (editor) Virginia Dooley, Nudes and Foods: Gorman Goes Gourmet. Northland Press, Flagstaff, AZ, 1981 (ISBN 0873582942)
  3. ^ Carl Gorman's world (1st ed.). University of New Mexico Press. p. 45. ISBN 0-8263-0738-8.
  4. ^ Parks, Stephen (1983). R. C. Gorman : A Portrait. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 25. ISBN 082121537X.
  5. ^ a b Bullis, Don (2007) "Gorman, Rudolph Carl "R.C." or "Rudy" (1931–2005)" New Mexico: a biographical dictionary, 1540-1980 Rio Grande Books, Albuquerque, New Mexico, pages 103-104, ISBN 978-1-890689-60-5
  6. ^ "History", Mexico City College
  7. ^ Jina Brenneman, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions (May 18, 2013). "R.C. Gorman: The Early Years :: The Harwood Museum of Art :: An exhibition at the Harwood Museum of Art of work by R.C. Gorman". www.harwoodmuseum.org. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  8. ^ Steven Leuthold, "13: Native American Art and Artists in Visual Arts Documentaries from 1973 to 1991," in On the Margins of Art Worlds, ed. Larry Gross. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995, 268. Accessed via Questia, which is a subscription required source.
  9. ^ Gerdes, R. Scott (2003-06-18). "Gorman gives library to Diné College". The Taos News. Retrieved 2019-08-09 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Brief biography of R.C. Gorman
  11. ^ "The Award Winners". New Mexico Museum of Art. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  12. ^ Biographical Directory of Native American Painters
  13. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars: By Date Dedicated Archived 2012-12-08 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]