Born: October 6, 1937 (Breckenridge, MN)
Heritage: Luiseño (California Mission), French, German and English
Fritz Scholder is one of the most important painters of the 20th century. His grandparents left the reservation and his father married a non-Native, so Fritz grew up in Pierre, South Dakota, largely removed from his Native ancestry.
In 1957 Fritz began studying Abstract Expressionism. In 1960, the Southwestern Indian Art Project granted Fritz a full scholarship to the University of Arizona, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
He saw the way Native people were portrayed in art and he vowed never to paint the Indian. In 1965, when he began teaching, at the Institute of American Indian Arts he found his students to be angry, alienated, disenfranchised members of American society. At this point he decided to retract his vow and painted the Indian in a new revolutionary way.
Using Pop Art ideas, Fritz began to break long-held negative clichés of Indians in Art. His works produce social commentary and showed Native Americans in modern real terms. Scholder’s work was new, simultaneously Indian, American, and twentieth-century. His Abstract Expressionism style used strong images and colors, which influenced many people and future great Native artists such as TC Cannon, Scholder’s student. (TC Cannon’s art is on permanent display at the Daybreak Star)
As a testament to his influence as a painter, Scholder earned numerous awards including, 5 honorary degrees, the Golden Plate Award, the Arizona Governor’s Award and a Norsk Hostfest Humanitarian Award. He exhibited at many of the best galleries on 3 continents including the Grand Palais in Paris and recently as featured artist at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Mr. Scholder died on February 10, 2005 at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“By walking that tightrope and putting down something on a canvas that conceivably is unique, coming from your guts, you have a chance of making marks that, of course, will live longer than you.” – Franz Scholder