Fritz Scholder | Indian Dying



In this 1972 acrylic on canvas from Scholder’s Indian series, the artist depicts a dying Indigenous person hovering against a deep teal background. The figure is mangled, with a pained look on the abstracted face, illustrating the anguish of the individual represented in the work. Visually, the work shows the strong influence that artists such as Francis Bacon (British, 1909-1992) had on Scholder’s work. The work, which falls under the subtopic of Indian Massacres from the Indian series, exposes the raw psychological and physical trauma inflicted upon Indigenous peoples in the United States by the settler-state and the realities of dispossession, assimilation, ethnocide and genocide.

Acrylic on canvas
80 x 70 in
Image by Craig Smith for Heard Museum

Luiseño, 1937-2005
Fritz Scholder was a prominent figure in the 20th century postwar and pop art movements. His seminal Indian series created a new vocabulary for the representation of Indigenous peoples from North America. Eschewing the tropes of the “romantic Indian,” Scholder sought to unhinge the antiquated ways in which Indigenous peoples and experiences were depicted. He studied at Sacramento State University, where he received his undergraduate degree, and went on to obtain a master of fine arts degree from the University of Arizona, which led him to teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, until 1969. Scholder’s career was expansive, including painting, photography, the written word and printmaking. His work has been included in many solo and group exhibitions and is represented in numerous major collections, including substantial holdings at the Heard Museum.