Fritz Scholder was born in Brackenridge, Missouri in 1937. From a very early age he knew that he wanted to be an artist. Attending high school in Pierre, South Dakota, his art teacher was Oscar Howe, a noted Sioux Artist. In 1957, Scholder moved with his family to Sacramento, California where he studied with the noted artist Wayne Thiebaud. Thiebeaud invited Fritz in creating a cooperative gallery in Sacramento where Scholder’s first showing received an exceptional review. His work started to be shown throughout the region as his unique talent became recognized.
Upon graduation from Sacramento State University, Scholder was invited to participate in the Rockefeller Indian Art Project at the University of Arizona in 1961. Working as a graduate assistant while attending the U of A, Scholder received his MFA degree in 1964.
After graduation he accepted an instructor’s position in Advanced Painting and Contemporary Art History at the newly created Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In 1967, Scholder, who is one-quarter Luseino, a California Mission tribe, began working on a series of paintings. His series on the Native American, depicting the “real Indian” became an immediate controversy. Fritz who did not grow up as an Indian brought his unique perspective to his art. His target was the loaded national cliché and guilt of the dominant culture. He continued to teach at the Institute of American Indian Arts until 1969.
In 1970 he was invited by the Tamarind Institute to create his first major project, a suite of lithographs, titled, Indians Forever. It was the beginning of a large body of work in that medium. The first book on Scholder’s work, Scholder/Indian was published that same year. By this time he had become a major influence for a generation of Native American artists.
His prominence in the art world continued to rise as his work began showing throughout the United States and the world. He added sculpture and printmaking to his activities, creating mixed media constructions, bronzes, lithographs, etchings and monotypes. His subject matter began including women, landscapes, dreams, cats, dogs, and ancient Egypt. In 1984 he received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement. He continued to have books of his artwork published and upon returning to Arizona in 1994 he established his private press, Apocrypha.
In 1995 Fritz had 2 major shows open in Arizona. The Private Work of Fritz Scholder opened at the Phoenix Art Museum, and Fritz Scholder / Icons & Apparitions, at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. In March 2002, Chiaroscuro Galleries in Scottsdale opened a major show titled, Orchids and Other Flowers, which was Scholder’s reaction to 9/11. That same year he received the Arizona Governor’s Award for his contribution to art in Arizona.
His artwork has continued to grow and evolve as he continues to follow his artistic muse.