Fritz Scholder (1937-2005)

Although Fritz Scholder, enrolled Luiseño, did not call himself an Indian, his artwork has been heralded as among some of the finest in Native American art.


Mr. Scholder was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, and attended high school in Pierre, South Dakota, where he studied with well-known Native American painter Oscar Howe. His family moved to Sacramento in 1957 where he had the opportunity to further develop his style while studying with Wayne Thiebaud. Mr. Scholder started exhibiting his work regionally.

In 1961, Mr. Scholder received a scholarship to participate in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Southwest Indian Art Project at the University of Arizona, studying with noted Native artists Lloyd Kiva New and Charles Loloma. He received a Master of Fine Arts in 1964, and that year, he sold the first of several of his paintings to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Following graduation, Mr. Scholder taught painting and art history at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe. He resigned in 1969 to travel through Europe and Africa, then settled in Santa Fe and devoted all of his time to painting.




He also explored sculpture, lithography, etching, and other media, and expanded his subject matter to include a variety of animals, cultures, and places. He frequently worked in “series” of paintings, as with his butterfly series.



Mr. Scholder continued to travel around the world, drawing inspiration from people and places. His artwork has been exhibited in museums throughout the United States and internationally; he has been the recipient of numerous awards, honors, and the subject of documentaries; and he served as artist-in-residence and visiting artist in several universities.

With his use of color and imagery, drawing inspiration from the abstract expressionism, surrealism, and pop art movements, and inclusion of Indian themes, Mr. Scholder’s work inspired Native Americans from different backgrounds to embrace their heritage and explore creative possibilities.


“… find out who you are and fully accept it. Fall in love with your life and live your life with finesse and manners. Be a role model for yourself, and many will be influenced.”




Credits: Story

Highlights from the BIA Museum Collection was developed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Museum Program, September 2016.

Shannon Stiles, Staff Curator
Annie Pardo, Museum Program Manager
(with assistance from the summer intern)

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“Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian.” National Museum of the American Indian. Last modified 2008. Accessed October 7, 2016. www.nmai.si.edu/exhibitions/scholder/biography.html

“Fritz Scholder | Official Website.” Last modified 2016. Accessed October 7, 2016. fritzscholder.com/index.php

“Fritz Scholder Profile – Academy of Achievement.” Academy of Achievement. Last modified February 14, 2005. Accessed October 7, 2016. www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/sch1pro-1

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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