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Cherokee Man and Wife / Cecil Dick


Cecil Dick’s gouache Cherokee Man and Wife, an example of his widely recognized Eastern Woodlands aesthetic,1 is a painting that celebrates and affirms the distinct histories that connect Cherokee people to their ancestral territories east of the Mississippi. Inspired by his ancestral heritage, Dick here provides a glimpse into mid-nineteenth-century Cherokee fashion. Textiles and materials such as wool, linen, and ceramic or glass cut seed beads from the Czech Republic, France, and Italy were some of the favored items popularized by Cherokee men’s and women’s fashion during this time.

Hailed as the “Father of Cherokee art,”2 Dick also influenced the broader field of Native art. He was awarded the Sequoyah Medal by the Cherokee Nation in 1983 in recognition of his artistic and intellectual accomplishments. He first studied art at the Santa Fe Indian School, where he primarily created Flatstyle paintings, a genre known for a “flattened” appearance that has limited or no shading and no background.

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

1 The phrase “Eastern Woodlands aesthetic” was coined by non-Native anthropologists to describe aesthetic commonalities among tribes from a specific region.
2 Scott, “Shaping Cherokee Art with America Meredith,” 12.

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Cherokee Man and Wife
Cecil Dick (Artist)
Native American; Cherokee (United Keetoowah Band)
mid-20th century
tempera on paper
Portrait; single-sided 0.462mm cream colored paper. Even distribution of fibers in transmitted light. Deckled edge, watermark in the lower PL corner.
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Artist
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
1988; 0227.1715; 19468
Not On View

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