Edward Sawyer’s Portraits of Native Americans Now Online

ANS announces: Edward Sawyer’s Portraits of Native Americans Now Online

The ANS is pleased to announce that it has digitized its entire collection of Native American medallic portraits by Edward Warren Sawyer (1876–1932). This exceedingly rare collection of uniface medals was produced in the first decades of the twentieth century as an attempt to preserve the likenesses of prominent Native Americans in a medium acceptable to them. Many Native Americans at the time were averse to photography. Sawyer was inspired in part by a more limited series of the Native American medallic portraits by Olin Levi Warner (1844–1896) produced in the 1890s (see for example, ANS 1921.95.1). A student of Hermon Atkins McNeil at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sawyer set out to Arizona in 1904, where he spent time with Elbridge Ayer Burbank (1858–1949) a noted painter of Native Americans. Over the course of the next decade, Sawyer made multiple trips to the west, living with over a dozen tribes and sculpting over 40 individuals. Very few of Saywer’s medallic portraits exist. Only the ANS and the numismatic section of the Smithsonian Museum hold (near) complete collections.

View the ANS’s collection of Sawyer’s medals.

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