Famed Diné artist Baje Whitethorne, Sr. dies at 73

Baje Whitethorne, Sr. passed away Nov. 17 in Flagstaff. (Photo/Whitethorne Family)

Baje Whitethorne, Sr. passed away Nov. 17 in Flagstaff. (Photo/Whitethorne Family)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Baje Whitethorne, Sr., an artist known for his colorful landscapes and paintings depicting life on the Navajo reservation, died Nov. 17. He was 73.

Whitethorne’s family announced his death, saying he passed away peacefully in his sleep after a lengthy illness.

“Baje was a world-renowned artist, loved by many, which includes family, friends, collectors and customers,” the family said.

Whitethorne’s upbringing on the Navajo Reservation near Shonto laid the foundation for his lifelong dedication to storytelling and art. His childhood tales, woven during journeys to his grandmother’s house with his brothers, sowed the seeds of his imaginative narrative style. From an early age, his artistic flair was evident, earning admiration and support from his teachers. Residing in Flagstaff, Arizona, until his recent passing, Whitethorne remained steadfast in his pursuit of preserving Navajo heritage through his creations. His art, resonating with the essence of Navajo culture, vividly depicted landscapes and the serene harmony of Navajo life, often featuring his trademark small folding chair — an emblematic element in his works.

The Museum of Northern Arizona held an exhibit of Whitethorne’s work in April and commented on his passing.

“We were deeply saddened to learn that Baje Whitethorne Sr. passed away on Nov. 17,” the museum said in a statement. “Baje has been an important part of the community for many years and touched so many lives.”

A luminary in the realm of children’s literature, Whitethorne illustrated eight books, with two bearing his imprint. His renditions of Native American legends such as “Monster Bird,” “Monster Slayer,” and “Sika and the Raven” established him as a figure in both storytelling and artistic spheres. Notably, he received the prestigious Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the Cowboy Hall of Fame, among various other accolades.

Whitethorne’s artwork adorns establishments worldwide, including museums, art galleries, and private collections. His creations stand as poignant reflections of Navajo traditions, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the cultural richness and visual narratives he crafted.

The artist’s son, Bahe Whitethorne Jr., also a well-known Navajo artist, died in Flagstaff in 2018. He was 41.

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