John Louis Clarke


Three-quarters Blackfoot Indian, John Louis Clarke was early-deafened by scarlet fever and preferred to communicate in sign language, written notes, and through his amazingly varied artworks—drawings, paintings, relief panels, bronzes, clay figures, and (especially) woodcarvings, some of them depicting Blackfoot themes, others wildlife of Montana’s East Glacier National Park near his studio on the Blackfoot Reservation: bears, bison, eagles, wildcats, mountain goats—all vividly observed and beautifully crafted. Even his letters were embellished with delightful sketches. He attended the Montana and North Dakota schools for the deaf, and had a little formal art education. He often signed his works with his Blackfoot name, Cutapuis—“man who talks not.” Despite his prolific output and the recognition he received during his lifetime (magnate John D. Rockefeller purchased seven of his works), he is one of our most under-appreciated artists.

Photo courtesy of Montana Historical Association, Helena

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