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Taos art colony

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Subject: Art museum, Art colony, Contemporary art gallery, Museum of Western Art (Kerrville, Texas), Taos, New Mexico
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Taos art colony

Taos Mountain, Trail Home, Cordelia Wilson, ca. 1915-1920s, Private collection

The Taos art colony is an art colony founded in Taos, New Mexico, by artists attracted by the rich culture of the Taos Pueblo and beautiful landscape. Hispanic craftsmanship of furniture, tin work and more played a role in creating a multicultural tradition of art work in the area.

In 1898 a visit of Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein to Taos was one of the first steps in the creation of the Taos art colony and the Taos Society of Artists. In addition to the society, Mabel Dodge Luhan was instrumental in promoting Taos to artists and writers within her circle.

In the early 20th century modern artists infused the area with a new artistic energy, followed in the 1950s by abstract artists. Taos supports more than 80 galleries and three museums. There are a number of organizations that support and promote the work of artists on the Taos Pueblo and in the Taos area.


Taos Pueblo

Located in a tributary valley off the Rio Grande, Taos Pueblo is the most northern of the New Mexico pueblos. For nearly a millennium, the Taos Indians have lived there. It is estimated that the pueblo was built between 1000 and 1450 AD, with some later expansion. The Taos Pueblo is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. The pueblo, at some places five stories high, is a combination of many individual homes with common walls. There are over 1,900 people in the Taos pueblo community. Some of them have modern homes near their fields and stay at their homes on the pueblo during cooler weather. There are about 150 people who live at the pueblo year-around. The Taos Pueblo was added as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 as one of the most significant historical cultural landmarks in the world; Other sites include the Taj Mahal, Great Pyramids and the Grand Canyon in the United States.[1]

Taos Pueblo artists

Ancient artistic traditions have been manifested in native craft for generations;[3] an important acknowledgement for understanding the inherent aesthetic allure of this area to the Anglo-American artists. Making paintings with oil and watercolor was a new form of art to the Taos Pueblo who traditionally painted objects such as hides or inside buildings, such as on the walls of a kiva, but one embraced by artists such as Albert Looking Elk, Albert Lujan, Juan Mirabal and Juanito Concha. They provided artwork that was realistic of the Native American lifestyle in contrast to the work of Anglo-Americans romantic depictions. Traditional design elements were formalized at the Santa Fe Indian School, defining authentic Native American art.[4]

Juanita Suazo Dubray, a lifelong resident of Taos Pueblo, is a Native American potter. In 1980, at the age of 50, Dubray began making micaceous pottery, upholding the tradition of her mother and their ancestors. Dubray added an element of sculptural relief with icons of corn, turtles, lizards, and kiva steps in relief; Her original corn design her most recognized symbol.[5][6] Lori "Pop Wea" Tanner (died 1966) was also a noted potter from Taos Pueblo[7]

Pop Chalee, also known as Merina Lujan and "Blue Flower" (1906–1993), was the daughter of a man from the Taos Pueblo and an East Indian mother. In the 1920s she attended the Santa Fe Indian School and in the 1930s Dorothy Dunn's studio of the same school. Multi-talented, Chalee was a muralist and art instructor; she also worked in radio and the film industry.[8]

Hispanic artwork

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries it was very expensive to ship furniture to New Mexico. Hispanic carpenters built, with great artistry, cajas (storage chests), harineros (grain chests), trasteros (kitchen cupboards) and other furniture. The work was generally carved and painted brightly.[9]

Tinwork was also made with materials brought from Mexico and sometimes along the Santa Fe Trail. A significant growth in tin work occurred, though, once the railroad opened. At first most of the tin work was in the form of religious, devotional items. By the turn of the 20th century tinsmiths were creating sconces, lanterns and trinket boxes.[9]

Commissioned by churches and individuals, artists created sacred images called Santos of Roman Catholicism. Patrociño Barela (1900–1964) made secular works that greatly influenced contemporary santeros. His work, shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York with other artists of the Federal Art Project, was the first Mexican American artist to receive national recognition.[9]

In addition to the Taos museums, the Martinez Hacienda, a fortress occupied by Padre Martinez's family in the 19th century, provides examples of the integration of Spanish and Pueblo artistic movements in retablos (santos painted on flat pieces of wood), bultos (santos carved out of wood and sometimes painted), as well as tin work, jewelry, and basketry.[10]

Art colony

Taos Society of Artists

Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein came to Taos, New Mexico as part of a tour of the western United States, but upon seeing Taos decided to stay.[11]

An article with drawings by Blumenschein about a ceremony at Taos Pueblo appeared in the July 10, 1898, issue of Harper's Weekly.[12]

Within a few years other American and European-born artists joined them in Taos: Joseph Henry Sharp, W. Herbert Dunton, E. Irving Couse and Oscar E. Berninghaus. These six artists were the charter members of the Taos Society of Artists.[11]

The Taos Society of Artists works heralded the beginning of the Taos art colony, a groundbreaking association of European trained painters that collected around the visually spectacular Taos Pueblo in the Southwestern United States. The founding members fostered the emergence of a major school of American painting. Unlike other 'schools' or styles that emerged around the turn of the 19th century in the United States, the early Taos Colony artists were not united under a single manifesto or aesthetic modus, but equally lured by the stunning and, as yet, foreign environs.[13]

Portrait of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Carl Van Vechten, 1934

Mabel Dodge Luhan

Many artists were drawn to Taos due to the presence of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy heiress from Buffalo, New York[14] who had run a prominent art salon in Florence, Italy, and Manhattan, New York, before settling in Taos in 1917. After both divorced their spouses, Mabel Dodge married a Pueblo native, Antonio Lujan, and built a house. She spelled her married name "Luhan" as it was easier for her friends to pronounce.[15][16]

While in the Southwest, Luhan carried on the tradition of the European salon in its newest of iterations. For decades, she invited artists, writers, and other luminaries to be inspired by Taos and each other. Among them were Alfred Stieglitz, author D. H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda von Richthofen. Artist Dorothy Brett came to Taos in 1924 with her friends D.H. Lawrence and Frieda von Richthofen and later permanently settled there.[15]

Andrew Dasburg, American Painter, 1940s

Andrew Dasburg

Parisian born Andrew Dasburg (1887–1979) was one of the earliest friends of Luhan to come and stay in Taos. He first came to Taos in 1918,[17] and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1921, when he integrated the boxy traditional construction styles in New Mexico into his Cubist art.[18] In Taos, Dasburg became a mentor to a group of artists known as "Taos Moderns".[19] A leader in the Cubism movement, his works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Denver Art Museum, among others.[20]

D. H. Lawrence

D.H. Lawrence

Inspired by the area and artists, D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930) painted while in Taos, signing his work "Lorenzo"; Nine of his paintings are displayed at La Fonda Hotel on the Taos Plaza.[16]

Photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz in 1918.

Georgia O'Keeffe

A friend of D.H. Lawrence, New Mexico. Her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, preferring to stay in New York, O'Keeffe spent much of the year with him. Upon his death in 1946, O'Keeffe moved permanently to her New Mexico home, in an area known as Ghost Ranch, in Abiquiu, (Ab-e-kew).[21]

Nicolai Fechin

Like Lawrence, Russian artist Nicolai Fechin (1881–1955) suffered from tuberculosis and found Taos helpful for managing his health. In 1927, Fechin moved to Taos with his wife and daughter. For a time they lived with Luhan, but soon purchased an adobe home that was renovated into a beautiful, unusual home with Russian wood carvings, is now the Taos Art Museum.[16]

Ansel Adams and camera, photograph

Ansel Adams

John Marin, and photographer Paul Strand, all of whom created famous works during their stays in the Southwest.[22]

Other early 20th-century artists




Modern art

In the 1940s a group of artists, some able to study under the G.I. bill, came to Taos and influenced by European and American modern art. Without knowing the history of the local art colony, artists came from New York and San Francisco, centers for abstract painting that emerged after World War II. By the 1950s Taos had become one of the major centers for modern art in the country; The artists became known as the "Taos Moderns". Andrew Dasbug came to Taos and was a mentor to many of the new artists. Some of the emerging artists from this period include: Thomas Benrimo, Louis Ribak and his wife Beatrice Mandelman, Agnes Martin, Clay Spohn, and Edward Corbett (artist). Other visiting artists include Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Clyfford Still and Morris Graves.[19]

Like earlier artists, they portrayed the colorful New Mexican landscape and cultural influences, such as the "timelessness they perceived in Puebloan culture and the deep connection to the land they noted in the everyday life of both Native Americans and Hispanics influence experimentation and innovation in their own art." Rather than capturing realist images of people and the landscape, they sought to capture the true meaning of their subjects.[19]

Until their recent deaths modern-day artists such as R. C. Gorman, and Bill Rane made Taos their home.[16][26]

R. C. Gorman

R. C. Gorman (1931–2005) was an internationally renowned artist of the Navajo Nation, sometimes called the "Picasso" of the American Indian Arts. Even so, he was not accepted by the entire Taos art colony. Gorman opened "The Navajo Gallery" in 1968 on historic Ledoux Street, the first art gallery owned by a Native American in the United States. It contained a large body of his work and those of some local Taos artists. Gorman was a collector of art, such as works by European masters Picasso and Chagall, and local artists, such as Bill Rane, whose work Gorman identified as his favorite of the artist colony.[26][27]

Bill Rane

Bill Rane was an artist and Taos gallery owner. His gallery was located next to R. C. Gorman's gallery.[26]


Taos Art Association

In the 1950s a group of Taos artists decided to form the Taos Art Association (TAA). They purchase the Manby estate and turned the mansion into art galleries and in the gardens an outdoor community theater. In 2000 Taos Art Association (TAA) became the Taos Center for the Arts (TCA). It is the oldest non-profit arts organization in the state of New Mexico.[28]

Taos Artist Organization

Taos Artist Organization is a group of 140+ artists living in Taos and working in a variety of creative media.[29]

Taos Gallery Association

Taos has over 80 privately owned art galleries.[30]

Taos Pueblo artists

Contemporary native artists of Taos Pueblo create handcrafted goods using methods passed down through generations of family artisans. Modern interpretation of traditional art is reflected in their sculpture, painting and jewelry. For centuries the Taos pueblo potters have been creating micaceous pottery; now, the pottery is made with a high polish. Also produced on the pueblo are tanned buckskin moccasins and drums.[3]


Harwood Museum of Art

The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos has a permanent collection of over 1,700 works of part and 17,000 photographic images. The collection of works from the 19th century to the present reflect the multicultural heritages and influences of the Taos artistic community. The categories of works include: Hispanic, Taos Society of Artists, Taos Moderns, Contemporary, and Prints, Drawings and Photographs.[31]

Millicent Rogers Museum

The [34]

Paintings by Pueblo artists Albert Looking Elk (Martinez), Albert Lujan, Juan Mirabal, Juanito Concha and the works of other Pueblo artists are included in the Museum's collection.[35]

Taos Art Museum

The Taos Art Museum and Nicolai Fechin House is largely a collection of paintings by full and associte members of the Taos Society of Artists. It is housed in the former home and studio of artist Nicolai Fechin.[36]


  1. ^ "About". Taos Pueblo. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  2. ^ Flynn (1994), p. 36. Made when Naumer documented scenes in Bandelier National Monument and nearby pueblos.
  3. ^ a b "Artists of the Taos Pueblo". Taos Pueblo. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  4. ^ Witt, D (2003). "Three Taos Pueblo Painters". Traditional Fine Art Online, Inc. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  5. ^ "J. Suazo Dubray". Through the Eyes of the Pot, Artists. L. D. Holmes Museum. Retrieved 2011. 
  6. ^ Anderson, D (1999). All That Glitters: The Emergence of Native American Micaceous Art Pottery in Northern New Mexico. School of American Research Press. p. 62. 
  7. ^ Lester, 443.
  8. ^ Farris, 13.
  9. ^ a b c "Hispanic". Collections. Harwood Museum of Art. Retrieved 2011. 
  10. ^ "Art History, The Taos valley has been a bed of creativity for centuries". Art of Taos. Taos Vacation Guide. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  11. ^ a b Bleiler, 75.
  12. ^ Hassrick, P; Cunningham, E; Blumenschein, E, 31.
  13. ^ Whaley, Bill; Stiny, Andy. "Reconsidering Art in Taos; Bert Phillips" in Taos Horse Fly, February 17, 2009.
  14. ^ Luhan, 120, 291.
  15. ^ a b "Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos NM, Legendary connections have happened in this house". Collector's Guide. 1995–2011. Retrieved 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c d e "Taos as an Art Colony: From the Taos Society of Artists to the Present". Taos. Taos Unlimited. 2006–2011. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  17. ^ Corley, Eri. "A Finding Aid to the Andrew Dasburg and Grace Mott Johnson Papers, 1833-1980 (bulk 1900-1980)". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. 
  18. ^ Zimmer, William (October 27, 1996). "Mexico, Both Sides of the Border, From the Century's First Half". The New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2007" Andrew Dasburg worked with the idea that New Mexican towns and villages, with their arrangements of box-like buildings, constituted a kind of Cubism in the flesh. His Taos Houses (New Mexican Village) is a good example of this." 
  19. ^ a b c "Taos Moderns". Collections. Harwood Museum of Art. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  20. ^ "Andrew Dasburg, Cubist Painter, Dies.". New York Times. August 14, 1979. Retrieved 2007-09-25. Andrew Dasburg, a painter who was said to be the last survivor of the artists who contributed work to the Armory show of 1913, died yesterday in Taos, N.M. He was 92 years old. 
  21. ^ "Georgia O'Keefe". Taos Art Colony. Taos Unlimited. Retrieved 2011. 
  22. ^ Alinder, 73-74
  23. ^ "Cordelia Creigh Wilson". Steve Art Gallery LLC. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  24. ^ Walter, P, ed. (1918). El Palacio 5. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico, Archaeological Society of New Mexico, School of American Research (Santa Fe, N.M.). pp. 90–91. 
  25. ^ "February 20 - June 06, 2010, Rebecca Salsbury James: Paintings and Colchas". Exhibitions. Harwood Museum. Retrieved 2011. 
  26. ^ a b c "Bill Rane & R.C. Gorman". Bill Rane Story. A j P Global Enterprises, Inc. 2007–2008. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  27. ^ "Navajo Gallery, The Gallery". Navajo Gallery. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  28. ^ "Taos Center for the Arts, History". About the TCA. Taos Center for the Arts. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  29. ^ "Taos Artist Organization". Taos Artist Organization. 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  30. ^ "Taos Gallery Association Members". Taos Gallery Association. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  31. ^ "Collections". Harwood Museum of Art. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  32. ^ "Millicent Rogers". Millicent Rogers Museum. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  33. ^ "Collections". Millicent Rogers Museum. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  34. ^ "Contemporary Southwestern Art". Millicent Rogers Museum. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  35. ^ "artists of taos pueblo". Taos Pueblo. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  36. ^ "About". Taos Art Museum. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 


  • Alinder, Mary; Stillman, Andrea; Adams, Ansel; Stegner, Wallace (1988). Ansel Adams: Letters and Images 1916–1984. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-8212-1691-0.
  • Bleiler, L; Society of the Muse of the Southwest (2011). Taos. Images of America. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7385-7959-7.
  • Farris, P, ed (1999). Women Artists of Color: A Bio-critical Sourcebook to 20th century Artists in the Americas. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-313-30374-6.
  • Flynn, Kathryn A. (1994). Treasures on New Mexico trails: discover New Deal art and architecture. Sunstone Press. ISBN 978-0-86534-236-1.
  • Hassrick, P; Cunningham, E; Blumenschein, E (2008). In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-8061-3937-1.
  • Lester, Patrick D. The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. Norman and London: The Oklahoma University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8061-9936-9.
  • Luhan, M (1987) [1937]. Edge of Taos Desert: An Escape to Reality. University of New Mexico Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-8263-0971-2.

Further reading

  • Dick, R. H. My Time There: The Art Colonies of Santa Fe & Taos, New Mexico, 1956-2006. St. Louis Mercantile Library, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9639804-8-9
  • Schimmel, Julie; White, Robert R. Bert Geer Phillips and the Taos Art Colony. Univ of New Mexico Press; 1st edition (June 1994). ISBN 0-8263-1444-9
  • Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: A Historical Guide to America's Original Art Colonies and Their Artists. Greenwood Press, 1996. ISBN 0-313-29619-7
  • Witt, David L. Modernists in Taos: From Dasburg to Martin. Red Crane Books, 2002. ISBN 978-1-878610-78-2

External links

  • Taos as an Art Colony: From the Taos Society of Artists to the Present
  • Taos Pre 1940
  • Taos Society of Artists: 1915 - 1927
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