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THE KIOWA SIX
 
The work of the Kiowa Six artists represents a watershed in 20th-century American Indian art. In about 1914, Sister Mary Olivia Taylor, a Choctaw/Chickasaw woman, began providing art instruction to Stephen Mopope, Jack Hokeah, Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, and Lois Smoky at the St. Patrick’s Mission School in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Several years later, Susie Peters, a field matron for the Kiowa Agency, organized a fine arts class that provided informal art instruction to these and other Kiowa young people. Peters then arranged for six students to enroll in art classes at the University of Oklahoma. Several, including Monroe Tsatoke began attending the university as early as 1926. Others, including Lois Smoky arrived shortly thereafter. Smoky’s tenure in the program was short-lived.
 
The director of the University’s School of Art, Oscar Brousse Jacobson, organized an exhibition of the Kiowa work that traveled widely beginning in 1928. The display was featured at the International Folk Art Congress in Prague and a print portfolio of the exhibited works, titled Kiowa Indian Art, was published in Paris in 1929. The paintings of the Kiowa Six were part of a larger Native exhibition in the United States National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1932—the only time Indigenous artists have ever shown in the American national pavilion.
 
In a 1975 interview, Muscogee Creek artist Fred Beaver commented on the legacy of the Kiowa Six:
 
“This tradition of Indian Art, at least here in Oklahoma, was created by people who trained themselves and didn’t have very much influence from European art and knew almost nothing about it. . . . The way we paint, that came from us. Just like I taught myself to paint; so did Mopope and Tsatoke and all those Kiowa boys.”
 
“I know this as a fact cause I saw those Kiowas and I knew Dr. Jacobson pretty well . . . I know that Miss Peters pretty much let them do what they wanted to do. Their art was their own, all the way.”
  • OSCAR JACOBSON BIOGRAPHY
    OSCAR BROUSSE JACOBSON was born Anders Oskar Jacobson on May 16, 1882, in Västra Eknö, Kalmar Lan, Sweden. He and his family emigrated to Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1890. He earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in art from Bethany College in Lindsborg; however, he received his master of fine arts degree from Yale University. In 1915, Jacobson became the director of the School of Art at the University of Oklahoma (OU) in Norman, Oklahoma. He served as director until 1954. Along with Sophie Brousse Jacobson, his wife from born in France, Jacobson built their family home, now the Oscar B. Jacobson House. There they raised their three children, Yvonne, Oscar Jr., and Yolanda. Mrs. Jacobson used the pen name Jeanne d’Ucel when she wrote. She authored Berber Art, and the couple cowrote essays about Native American art. Jacobson was a respected painter in his own right, first known for portraiture, but he ultimately focused on landscapes of his beloved West, devoid of human traces. He curated, most notably at the Oklahoma University Museum of Art, founded in 1926, which became the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. His most lasting contribution to the art world was his promotion of Native American art in the United States and across Europe. He lectured American Indian art, curated group shows, and promoted Native artists throughout the United States and Europe. In 1928, he and art professor Edith Mahier, created a special program for four Kiowa art students in 1927. In the next two years, two more joined in succession, and ultimately became the group known as Kiowa Six. During the Great Depression, Jacobson secured commissions for Native American artists to painted murals through the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. Several of these murals survive today. The Swedish-born artist won numerous awards, including a Gold Medal at the 1931 Mid-Western Exhibition at the Kansas City Art Institute Invitational. The Kiowa Tribe of Indians formally adopted him as a tribal member. Jacobson was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1949. After a full life of painting, teaching, and tirelessly promoting Oklahoma and American Indian art, he passed on in September 15, 1966. Based on the research of Mary Jo Watson, PhD (Seminole)
  • THE OSCAR JACOBSON HOUSE
    THE OSCAR B. JACOBSON HOUSE is located on the northwest corner of the campus of the University of Oklahoma at 609 Chautauqua in Norman, Oklahoma. Following the death of Dr. Oscar B. Jacobson in 1966, the House became rental property until it was gifted to the OU Foundation and then sold to the University. The University of Oklahoma planned to solve one of its pressing problems by demolishing the Jacobson House and providing more parking at this convenient location. Fortunately, a group of Norman people saw far more than a parking lot in the somewhat rundown residence and began work to preserve the House. When Oscar and Jeanne Jacobson were building their home in 1916 and 1917, the shortages of World War I made everything difficult. They persisted and created a marvelous house. Several motifs are characteristically Swedish. The connecting door between the house and garage and the wooden scrollwork outlining the garage windows are a tribute to Jacobson’s Swedish heritage. Stucco was a popular exterior finish in Sweden at the turn of the century. Classical columns and the gallery-like formal living space give the interior a timeless, sunny atmosphere experienced by all who enter. The back porch was perfect for its use to stage plays and performances by the mistress of the house. The House was then, as now, a wonderful gathering place and gallery for experiencing art and conversation. One can easily imagine the Kiowa Six singing and drumming to the enjoyment of a gathering of guests. Jacobson designed this historic house in a very special way with numerous passive climate control features. He built it so that family and guests would never be separated from nature using French doors, deep porches, generous windows and elaborate gardens to bring the outdoors inside. It encourages use of the grounds as an extension of the living quarters.
  • THE JACOBSON FOUNDATION
    The Jacobson Foundation was incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization in 1986. That same year the Jacobson House placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique architecture and role in the evolution and success of art in Oklahoma. Now on the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Landmarks List, the house is documented with a state historical marker. Arrell Morgan Gibson, the Oklahoma historian, referred to the Oscar Jacobson legacy as “a preservation imperative.” The Jacobson House Native Art Center is in the former residence of the Jacobson family. By bringing art exhibitions, cultural activities, lectures, workshops, and educational events to the public, the Jacobson House continues a legacy begun by the Jacobsons and their Native American artist colleagues. We recognizes art as the medium of human expression which embodies our values and spirit and has the capacity to convey those to others. Monroe Tsatoke (Kiowa, 1904–1937) said it best around 1938: “In the art of painting there is a new day dawning for the tradition is equipped with power and possibilities capable of immeasurable development. God has planted a tremendous hungering … for just such development…. God surely would never plant a hunger he would not satisfy. The Indian’s longing for power to achieve, to create, to do great things so his people will be better understood, will have a glorious realization in the future.” In its articles of incorporation, the foundation established the following purpose: “To acquire and manage funding for the restoration and maintenance of the historic Oscar B. Jacobson House and grounds, to establish therein a Native American Cultural Center to showcase American Indian art and culture, to serve the public.” Noted legal scholar Rennard Strickland stated in 1991: “In an age when events are driving us apart and splintering people along ethnic, racial, and economic lines, the Jacobson House stands as a cross-cultural bridge bringing people together to celebrate their unique strengths and shared values.” He continued, “In an important way, the goals of Oscar Jacobson, the teacher, and the achievements of the Native peoples with whom he worked are an example of how all people can work together to preserve and extend what the early Arapaho artist Carl Sweezy called ‘the way people were meant to live.’ Through its many activities, the Jacobson House hopes to capture this spirit.”
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