James Auchiah

Artist: Anita Howard Kramer

Anita Howard had recently finished her art degree at the University of Oklahoma and was teaching as an adjunct at Oklahoma City University when she completed the portrait of James Auchiah in the spring of 1931. Auchiah’s biographic information appears on page 147.

According to an interview conducted by Arthur Silberman, Howard completed the portrait and a similar one of Jack Hokeah at her studio on Northeast 13th Street in Oklahoma City, less than a mile away from the Oklahoma Judicial Center. Howard’s mother, Beryl Howard, was a friend of Susie Peters, field matron for the Kiowa Tribe who had encouraged the Kiowa artists throughout their youth.

Howard took about two weeks to paint each of the portraits and paid Auchiah and Hokeah a modeling fee of one dollar per hour, which was “customary at the time.” They would sit for about half an hour before taking a break. “They were excellent models because they stayed just absolutely still. They never batted an eyelash.” Howard said Auchiah and Hokeah often ate lunch with Howard and her parents on the days they were in Oklahoma City.

After Howard had completed both portraits, she hosted an art show for the Kiowa Five at her studio. As reported in The Daily Oklahoman, the one-week show consisted of more than 300 watercolor paintings “portraying dance figures, symbolic legends and hunters. There is much of action, much of marvelous color and much of beauty and design in every painting by these Oklahomans whose fame is nationwide.”

Howard later said of the show, “they sold a good many of them (paintings) and naturally we didn’t charge any commission.” Though Auchiah, Hokeah, Tsatoke and Asah all gave Howard a painting in gratitude for hosting the show. When asked why she chose to paint only Auchiah and Hokeah, Howard said, “I had really wanted to paint one of each of them. But about that time I got this full-time job at OCU.” With a heavier work schedule, Howard was never able to arrange portrait sittings with the other Kiowa artists.

Howard graduated from Central High School in Oklahoma City, the University of Oklahoma and went on to earn a master’s of fine arts from the University of Southern California in 1941. She also studied art with Nan Sheets and attended the Broadmore Art Academy in Colorado Springs where she studied with Ernest Lawson.

She headed the art department at Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma) in Edmond and taught at Central High School in Oklahoma City and in El Paso Public Schools. During World War II, she worked as a draftswoman in Charleston, South Carolina. The portrait of James Auchiah is on permanent loan from the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Source: Arthur & Shifra Silberman Native American Art Collection, Box 004, Folder 004, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; “Paintings by Kiowas Win Praise,” The Oklahoman, May 24, 1931, Anita Howard Kramer, The Oklahoman, July 1, 1987.
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