He gained international prominence quickly – a favourite among well known personalities collecting his portraits of striking Navajo peasant women, symbolizing the American Southwest.

But the critics were divided over the art of Navajo artist R. C. Gorman – one critic of the New York Times critics referring to him as “the Picasso of American Indian artists” others thought of his art as nothing but crass commercialism masquerading as art, given that later in his career, Gorman images were affixed to T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.

Nevertheless some deemed his art important given his shows at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the American Indian, both in New York.

Gorman was heavily influenced by major Mexican painters – Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Rufino Tamayo, expanding on their free-flowing styles and use of colour.

He started painting using subtle pastels, depicting Navajo traditions and peasant women.

“I revere women. They are my greatest inspiration,” he once said, given that he adored his grandmother, largely instrumental in urging him to become an artist.

His art resonated with collectors, garnering him international recognition.
Well-known personalities such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Lee Marvin, Gregory Peck, Arnold Schwarzenegger were avid collectors as were major politicians of the day – New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Barry Goldwater, and Walter Mondale.

Andy Warhol was a major fan and collector, even painting Warhol several times.

As his recognition grew so did the use of colour – his brushstroke stronger, vivid colours evident – peasant women now clad in bold, dramatic, dresses.

Collectors loved it – sold out shows all over the United States were the norm, not the exception.

And with the success came excess. He began to live an over-the-top lifestyle, spending lavishly and endlessly.

So he ended up – venturing into the world of commercial retailing – coffee mugs, T-shirt, trinkets, affixed with images of his art.

He soon discovered that turning his paintings into prints – prints that were available for a few hundred dollars – was a quick way to make a lot of money.

His trinkets and prints we’re eagerly snapped up by the general public.

His sculptures were similar to those of the Costa-Rican born Mexican artist Francisco Zuniga. His ceramics a continuation of his paintings.

Personal Note
Here are the three Gorman prints that I bought on a holiday with my wife to San Francisco – my first art purchases, igniting my passion for collecting art.