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Navajo Boy Observing a Bird in Song

Beatien Yazz

About The Navajo Boy Observing a Bird in Song

Young Navajo Boy Observing a Bird in Song on a tree branch, enjoying natures creatures.  Paintings by Beatien Yazz 

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Young Navajo Boy Observing a Bird in Song on a tree branch, enjoying natures creatures.  Paintings by Beatien Yazz 

About the Artist

 (1928-2013, Navajo) Jimmy Toddy (Beatien Yazz translates to Little No Shirt) won awards at every major showing of Native American art in the United States and was one of the best known contemporary Native American painters. He painted in the traditional mode with a delicate use of lines featuring scenes of everyday life emphasizing people and animals, rather than landscapes. Before becoming a full-time artist, Yazz was an art teacher and went on to study under the tutelage of artist Kuniyoshi in 1949.


At the age of twelve, Yazz enjoyed his first sales exhibit of his paintings.  From it, he received approximately $11 for the sale of twenty paintings (remember, this was in 1940!).  The following year, Yazz had a solo exhibition in November at the Art Center in La Jolla,California.  Both the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union wrote extensive articles touting the thirteen-year-old artist’s work.


In the military service during World War II, Yazz joined the Code Talkers, a branch of the marines credited with shortening the war by using the Navajo language to confuse the Japanese. In the summer of 1947, Yazz attended Mills College to study under the Japanese artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi, which gave him exposure to working with a live model using oil paint. 


Yazz’s three oldest sons, Irving, Calvin and Marvin Toddy, are all artists. Beatien Yazz has 12 children all together, seven sons and five daughters (no pressure for the rest of you!).  His wife, Ruby, also uses her artistic talents to weave textiles using natural fibers and vegetal dyes.


Primary materials used by this artist are casein on mat board, occasionally combining pen and ink with oils. Nationally known for his illustrations for children's books, Yazz is cited in Dorothy Dunn's book American Indian Painting, in Clara Lee Tanner's Southwest Indian Painting and in the Biographical Directory of Native American Painters by Patrick Lester.


This artist's work is included in the famed Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the Denver Art Museum, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Southwest Museum of Los Angeles, California to name a few. Yazz Navajo Painter by Sallie R. Wagner, J.J. Brody and Beatien Yazz was published in 1983 by Northland Press.

Beatien Yazz was the first American Indian painter whose work caught my eye back in 1975 while I participated in a research team in Taos, New Mexico.  A group of graduate students from Southern Methodist University investigated the impact of tourism on Taos.  That project has influenced my interest in art for over four decades.

Culture American Indian
Style Whimsical
Medium Gouache (opaque watercolor) on paper board
Sight size 8 1/2" height X 8 1/2" width
Frame Two window mat boards, glass, wood molding
Frame size 14" height X 14" width
Signed "B. Yazz" at viewer's lower right
Condition Excellent, as appeared framed, glazed
Provenance RJ
Other Works by Beatien Yazz
Two Boys Enjoying Watermelon, Paintings by Beatien Yazz
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