Abeita, Jimmy

This Navajo artist was the first painter to master realism with oils.

Born in Crownpoint, NM, he grew up drawing on paper bags and scratching images on sandstone while he was tending his family's sheep. He lived in Salt Lake City with a Mormon foster family during high school. They gave him his first set of paints and brushes.

While there, he met Hannah, another Navajo living with a foster family. She was to become the love of his life and the one who got his career off of the ground. They moved to Gallup and Abeita was working as a draftsman. His boss recognized Jimmy's talent and helped him get a scholarship at the American Academy of Art in Chicago.

In Chicago,Hannah gathered 28 of Abeita's paintings that he had scrapped and sold them to Art International, a gallery chain with 30 locations, for $10 each. They ordered more and he was painting 30 small pieces a week. It was a living but not what they wanted. They returned to the reservation and his first entry at the Inter-tribal Ceremonial got him a blue ribbon.


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