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Oscar Howe, 'Smoke signals,' estimated at $60,000-$80,000 at John Moran.

Two works by Oscar Howe highlight John Moran’s Art of the American West sale June 4

MONROVIA, CA — Two original works by Yanktonai Dakota artist Oscar Howe have been consigned by the family to whom he had given them in the 1950s. They will appear in John Moran‘s Art of the American West sale, which features 307 lots and is scheduled for Tuesday, June 4. The catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Howe (1915-1983) was an extremely innovative artist whose art transcended his American Indian heritage. Geometric and featuring a brilliant use of color, his works often defy description but are always tied to his native heritage in terms of their themes and subject matter. Throughout his career, Howe created a vast body of work that included paintings, drawings, prints, and murals, as well as sculptures and installations. His art was exhibited widely in galleries and museums across the United States and Europe, and he received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the field.

Moran previously achieved a world record for Howe in 2023 with Camte waste, no no wa (Good Heart Forever),  which hammered for $325,000 ($422,500 with buyer’s premium).

Smoke Signals is a 1953 casein on paper in an unusual vertical portrait format, taking full advantage of the work’s theme. It comes by descent from John ‘Leonard’ Jennewein, who was a close friend and colleague of Howe’s at Dakota Wesleyan University, where Jennewein was a professor of history and of English from 1953 until his death in 1968. This piece of Howe’s artwork was to be adapted to copy paper letterhead, but it is unknown if this ever happened. Smoke Signals is estimated at $60,000-$80,000.

Blessings for Fertility is a 1957 work by Howe created as a gift to Jennewein’s son upon the occasion of his marriage. Its significance transcended mere artistry, as Howe conveyed to the couple that it symbolized fertility. Remarkably, Howe’s gift bore fruit, as the couple was later blessed with a son and a daughter. The current owner of this work is the daughter that this painting had hoped for. It carries a $30,000-$50,000 estimate.