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collections > permanent collection > sculpture > ALLAN HOUSER

Allan Houser
(Native American (Chiricahua Apache), 1914-1994)
Ready for Battle, 1985
Bronze, 3/20, 17” x 24" x 6"
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David P. O'Neill in honor of Sean Sullivan, T.O.R., founder of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (2002.137)

Proficient in both abstract and realist modes, Allan Houser celebrated the lifeways of the American Indian, including his own Chiricahua Apache people.  Ready for Battle is inspired by the story of Houser’s grandfather, who was part of an Apache band ambushed by a group of Mexican troops.  Together with a few others, Houser’s grandfather volunteered to fight the soldiers to the death, holding them back and thereby allowing the rest of the Apache to escape.  Although it is more stylized and freely modeled, Ready for Battle recalls the Western bronzes of Frederick Remington and Charles M. Russell.  Like his early twentieth-century predecessors, Houser strove to capture the dynamism and courage of the Western hero, but seen from the Native American point of view.

Houser was born Allan Hauzous on his family’s farm near Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  At the age of 20, he went to New Mexico in order to study art with Dorothy Dunn at the Santa Fe Indian School.  There he studied painting and showed such proficiency that by 1939, he was able to win mural commissions for the World’s Fairs of New York and San Francisco.  Additional commissions from the Federal Government followed in 1940, but through the encouragement of Norwegian muralist Olle Nordmark, Houser began to turn toward sculpture.  During the War years, Houser painted and sculpted while working in a Los Angeles shipyard.  In 1948, the artist won his first major sculpture commission, a war memorial for the Native American students of the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.  In the ensuing decades, Houser taught art at Native American institutions and developed his reputation as a sculptor.  He showed his work frequently, and by 1975, he was able to retire from the classroom to pursue sculpture on a full-time basis.  Many of his most significant honors, including being the first Native American to receive the National Medal of the Arts, came during his final years.  Active until his death, Houser passed away in 1994.