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Portrait of an Old Man / Woody Big Bow, January 29, 1915 - July 10, 1988, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)


Woody Big Bow was a Kiowa (Cáuigù)1 artist and World War II veteran; he also designed the thunderbird insignia for the 45th Infantry Division (also known as the Thunderbirds). Before the war, he studied fine arts with Professor Oscar Jacobson, graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 1939. Big Bow also worked as a set designer, set painter, and muralist, and his artworks in the Gilcrease collection capture the diversity and range of his output throughout his career.

This painting portrays an elderly man seated on the prairie, smoking tobacco from a hand-carved pipe. His hair is adorned with two eagle feathers, and his braids are wrapped in otter hide. He wears a cream-colored trade-cloth shirt with a brown scarf. A red wool blanket with beaded buckskin ties at the edges is draped across his lap. His buckskin pipe bag, decorated with lane-stitch beadwork, is filled with tobacco. As he draws deeply on the pipe, his smoke faintly hazes the mountains in the background.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

1 Cáuigù is the correct identity used by the Kiowa Tribe.

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Portrait of an Old Man
Woody Big Bow, January 29, 1915 - July 10, 1988, Native American; Kiowa (Artist)
Native American; Kiowa
mid-20th century
oil on canvas attached to board
Portrait; single-sided 4.687-4.697mm canvas attached to paper board
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
0127.583; 1228 & AIP-20th-77; 17618
Not On View

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