(Harrison Begay was born in White Cone, AZ, 15 Nov 1917).
Native American Navajo painter. He was a prolific artist for over 50 years, and his work is
familiar through paintings, book illustrations and screenprints, making him perhaps the best-
known contemporary Native American painter.
In 1934 he entered the Santa Fe Indian School (see Native north american art, §IV, 2) 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 façade 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.
Harrison Begay Navajo Painter