Taos and Santa Fe Schools

Explore the works discussed in the video below. Click the thumbnails to expand.

By the final decades of the 19th century, most ambitious young American artists spent at least a few years studying in Europe. Upon their return to the United States, they set off in search of picturesque, unmistakably “American” subjects, and they found them in the Indian pueblos and sleepy Hispanic villages of northern New Mexico. In contrast to the tribal communities of the Northern Plains, the pueblo cultures of New Mexico were not situated in the direct path of westward expansion, and they were able to maintain many of their traditions in relative isolation from white civilization.

Taos, the site of a thousand-year-old Indian pueblo as well as a Hispanic agricultural community, was the first town in New Mexico to harbor an art colony. Artists were drawn by its cultural diversity as well as its beautiful surroundings. Ernest M. Hennings, who decided to move to Taos from Chicago in 1921, recorded the coexistence of ancient traditions and modern life that made Taos so attractive to artists.

The first formal art association in the Southwest was the Taos Society of Artists, founded in 1915 to organize sales exhibitions of the works of its members. The Society circulated exhibitions to major cities, and its fame was further enhanced by the Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad commissioned its members to paint pictures for display in ticket offices and to be reproduced on tickets, calendars, dining car menus, and posters promoting travel in the Southwest.

Ernest Blumenschein was one of the most influential members of the Taos Society of Artists. Blumenschein was a musician as well as a painter, and his objective was to bring every natural and man-made element in a composition into perfect harmony. Like Ernest Blumenschein, Walter Ufer often incorporated into his work realistic elements that represent the clash and combination of cultures in the Southwest.

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