Amon Carter print details

American Indian Symbols

Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)

Object Details

  • Date


  • Object Type


  • Medium

    Oil on canvas

  • Dimensions

    39 1/4 x 39 1/4 in.

  • Inscriptions


    u.c. in graphite on wood plaque attached to stretcher: MARSDEN HARTLEY \ EST NO 223C C-10856

    [removed] label in ink: TR 7101

    [removed] printed label: APG 5441

    [removed] printed label: APG 14669D

    [removed] printed label: [H & A logo] HIRSCHL & ADLER \ Galleries inc. \ 21 East 70th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021 \ ARTIST: Marsden Hartley [typewritten] \ NUMBER: APG 5441 [typewritten] \ TITLE: American Indian Symbols [typewritten and underlined] \ MEDIUM: oil on canvas [typewritten] \ SIZE: 39 x 39 in. [typewritten] \ DATE:

    [removed] printed label: [H & A logo] HIRSCHL & ADL [torn] \ Galleries inc. \ 21 East 70th Street, New York, N.Y. [torn] \ [torn]: Marsden Hartley \ [torn]MBER: APG 11345D [typewritten] \ TITLE: Ame[torn]an Indi[torn] [typewritten and underlined] \ M[torn] Oil [torn] [typewritten]

    [removed] printed label: [H & A logo] Hirschl & Adler \ Galleries, Inc. \ 21 East 70th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021 \ ARTIST: Marsden Hartley \ (1877-1943) \ NUMBER: APG 14669D \ TITLE: American Indian Symbols [underlined] \ MEDIUM: Oil on canvas \ SIZE: 39 x 39 inches \ DATE:

    [removed] printed label: M "Pop Art & the Amer. Tradition" [typewritten] \ April 8 - May 9, 1965 [typewritten] \ Hartley AMERICAN INDIAN SYMBOLS [typewritten] \ Le[n]t by John Brady, Jr. \ Des Moines, Iowa [typewritten] \ MILWAUKEE ART CENTER \ 750 N. LINCOLN MEMORIAL DRIVE, MILWAUKEE 2, WISCONSIN

    [removed] label in ink: Collection Pa[torn] \ American \ Indian \ Symbols

  • Credit Line

    Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

  • Accession Number


  • Copyright

    Public domain

Object Description

While living in Berlin, Germany, Hartley created what he called his Amerika paintings—semi-abstract compositions that incorporate motifs from Indigenous cultures. Part of this series, American Indian Symbols portrays rows of stylized tipis framed within colorful shapes and patterns of Hartley’s own invention. At the time, Hartley did not have direct experience with the Indigenous peoples of North America; he had only encountered artifacts displayed in museums in Berlin and Paris. Decontextualized from their original function and meaning, these artifacts inspired his romanticized imaginings. Simultaneously, they provided Hartley an ideal subject through which he could proclaim and promote his Americanness to audiences in Europe, particularly in Germany, where stereotypical depictions of American Indians featured prominently in popular culture. Hartley’s interest in Indigenous cultures eventually drew him to New Mexico, where he became an outspoken critic of federal efforts to ban traditional Pueblo dances.

—Text taken from the Carter Handbook (2023)

Additional details

Location: Off view
See more by Marsden Hartley


  • Marsden Hartley was interested in American Indian motifs. One summer he painted American Indian Symbols using basic shapes, like circles, rectangles, and triangles as well as a simple color palette of mostly black, blue, red, and white. In the middle of the canvas, a large red triangle with geometric designs resembles a tipi with white flaps at the center opening pulled to the left and the right. An American Indian sits inside the tipi wearing a multicolored war bonnet and wrapped in a blue and red blanket. A black and white pot is next to each of his knees. Outside the tipi, on the left and right corners, are two other American Indians shown in profile and wearing war bonnets that extend down their backs as they look to the outer edges of the canvas. On each side of the main tipi, five tipis stacked on top of each other extend into the background, and their points cut into the sky. The sky fills the top third of the canvas with a large black circle in the center representing the moon and several wheel-like star forms around it. Running down the left edge of the canvas are red and blue waves. Down the right edge of the painting is a military-inspired, black-and-white checkered banner, with some red and blue.


Educator Resources
  • How do artists use simple geometric shapes to make complex compositions?

    What role does symmetry play in a work of art?

    What is a symbol, and why might an artist incorporate symbols in a work of art?

    How have representations of Black, Indigenous, people of color, and other marginalized communities changed over time?

  • Grades Pre-K–1

    Activity 1
    Have students fold a sheet of paper in half and practice drawing shapes on one side. Then have students unfold the sheet and practice creating symmetry on the other half.

    Activity 2
    Read the book And to Name Just a Few: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue by Laurie Rosenwald. Point out how the artist has used red, white, and blue in his painting. Ask students what other objects they know of that are these three colors and have them sketch these objects in the appropriate colors.

    All Levels

    Have students think of all the symbols that are significant in their everyday lives and create a portrait of themselves incorporating these symbols.

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