November 22, 2017 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

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Burt Harwood

ELIHU BURRITT HARWOOD (1855 – 1922)

Remember me as you pass by/ As you are now, so once was I./ As I am now, you soon will be./Prepare for death, and think of me

          Headstone Epitaph

On August 8, 1998 the Associated Press reported a bizarre story about the discovery of an artist’s urn at a recycling center in Taos. The story went virtually unnoticed, but it was picked up by a local newspaper in Lubbock, Texas:

          Artist’s Ashes Found, Swapped, Turned Over
          A supermarket security guard found the ashes of a Taos, N.M., artist at a recycling center, swapped a               coin collection for them, then donated them to the museum that bears the artist's name. A copper box           apparently containing Elihu Burritt Harwood's remains was turned over to the Harwood Museum last                 week. 'Burt came back. He's in my office even now,' museum curator David Witt said Friday during a                 telephone interview. ‘I always wondered what had happened tohim.’

          Luis Maestas of Taos spotted the box, which has Harwood's name on it, a few weeks ago during a trip             to a Taos recycling center that buys scrap metal. When the box was still there last week, Maestas, a                 collector of “everything,” offered to trade a small coin collection for it that he had picked up at a garage           sale. “I think (the box) was being turned into a piggy bank,'' said Maestas, “because someone had                   recently cut a coin-sized hole in it”. Maestas took it home, shook the box, and ashes drifted out.
          ''So I put some holy water in there and decided to take the urn to the museum,” he said. At first he               intended to sell it, then quickly changed his mind, he said. “They were part of history. That's why I took           them over there,'' Maestas said.

          Lubbock-Avalanche News, August 8, 1998

“They were a part of history.” This comment by Luis Maestas aptly captures the feeling of the people of Taos for their cultural history. On a larger plane, the story speaks to the critical role of a museum in preserving for cultural history what would otherwise be lost (or recycled).

Elihu Burritt (Burt) Harwood (1855-1922), the son of Sanford and Kezia (Dryer) Harwood, was to have a major influence on the fledgling art community and cultural history of Taos, New Mexico. Burt’s father Sanford was apprenticed to learn the trade of a saddler. By the time of his death in February 1896, Sanford Harwood - having moved West and settled in Charles City, Iowa in 1850 - had amassed thousands of acres of prime farmland in Iowa. He very likely owned real estate in St. Paul and Minneapolis, where he journeyed “ in search of lands” in 1853, when both were villages of 200 and 100 inhabitants, respectively, and where his son Burt would later establish two Academies of Art and Design. Sanford and his wife Kezia had six children, of whom three (Burt and two siblings) lived to adulthood. One of Burt’s siblings became a publisher, the other a homemaker. Burt Harwood’s life to 1910 is chronicled in a volume of the Harwood genealogy by kinsman Watson H. Harwood, M.D. published in 1911 and financed by Burt himself.

The genealogy record for Elihu Burritt Harwood states that after high school Harwood adopted art as a profession. He enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Design in 1873, at the age of 18. The genealogy’s cryptic statement that Harwood “later engaged in business” after his study at the Chicago Academy of Design refers to his work as a photographer between 1873 and 1882, by which time he was senior partner at Harwood and Mooney, Photography, in Charles City, Iowa. The Floyd County, Iowa Archives states that Harwood & Mooney, Photography “is one of the city’s enterprising young firms. Though both are young men, they do some of the finest work in their line in the State.”

In 1882, at age twenty-seven, Harwood enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City. Two years later he enrolled in Paris’ Académie Julian, where he studied under Gustave Boulanger, Jules Lefebvre, Amie Morot, Raphael Collin, and – for several months - the sculptor Mercier. Harwood returned to the United States in 1887 to set up the Academies of Art and Design in St. Paul (1888) and Minneapolis (1889), where he met and married Elizabeth (Lucy) Case in September of 1896. Shortly after, he returned with Lucy to Paris. The record notes that on Burt’s return to Paris, “he renewed his study under Benjamin Constant and J.P. Laurens,” both instructors at the Académie Julian. A 1955 article on the Harwood Foundation in El Crepusculo, a Taos weekly, describes the lifestyle of Burt and Lucy in Paris from 1896 to the end of 1916:   "Travel over continent, lazy days in summer sun, winter sports, residences in both Paris and Brittany where artist-photographer Harwood took masterful pictures of every phase of life: weddings, funerals, festivals, customs, exhibits of paintings in Paris—this was the pleasant pattern of the Harwoods’ life until the threat, and later the actuality of World War I turned them to more serious pursuits, and later to seek a new home."  (El Crepusculo, November 3, 1955)

One such pursuit was Burt’s role as a donor in the French Red Cross program, which channeled financial support to French soldiers who were prisoners of war in Germany, from 1915 to well after war’s end in 1918. Another was the Harwoods’ support of a hospital in Pontivy, Brittany for wounded soldiers “until the declaration of war by the U.S. [April 1917] at which time they thought it wise to return home.” ( El Crepusculo, Nov 3, 1955).

The inherited wealth of Burt Harwood enabled him to set up the art academies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. His inheritance, and that of Lucy, provided both with the opportunity to travel, to study art abroad, to finance the hospital in Brittany, and eventually to purchase “El Pueblito” in Taos upon the Harwoods’ return to the United States and their move to New Mexico in1916. The property that the Harwoods purchased from Captain Simpson’s oldest daughter, along with surrounding property purchased later, became their home, a salon of sorts for local artists, and - upon Burt’s death - the Harwood Foundation. Its public name was changed in the 1990s to the Harwood Museum of Art.

Despite the Harwoods’ hospitality and, more compelling, Burt’s credentials as a photographer/artist and his training in Paris - during which time he exhibited in the salon of the Société des Artistes Français - Burt Harwood was rejected for membership in the Taos Society of Artists, having been nominated by Bert Phillips. But apparently the rejection did nothing to slow Burt’s creative urges. Harwood continued to paint at the same time as he “directed the remodeling of the El Pueblito compound, in keeping with local construction techniques.”

With his architect Abe Bowring, Burt Harwood connected the disparate structures and added a second story, thus making the first two-story building in Taos apart from the community structures at Taos Pueblo. The Harwood compound was reputedly the first residence in Taos to have electricity, and one of the largest until Mabel Dodge Luhan built hers. The Harwoods opened their newly renovated home as a kind of social center, or Southwest style salon, with informal or semi-formal discussions, lectures and art exhibitions. The Blumenscheins would move down the street a few years later, and that residence is now the E.L. Blumenschein Home and Museum.

If Downton Abbey or The Cazalets were set in America, the casting of Burt Harwood as family patriarch would make a convincing choice. One surviving photograph captures the image of a suave, self-possessed young gentleman, handsome and decked in a raccoon fur with a jaunty hat, senior partner in a very successful photographic studio by age twenty-five. Another shows the young Harwood a few years later, now an aspiring art student at the Académie Julian in Paris. Other photographs record his young bride Lucy Case, their life in Paris and Brittany, and his fellow expatriates. In Taos, we see a mature man, burdened with ill health during the last years of his life.

An article in the September 26, 1922 issue of The Taos Valley News stated that Burt Harwood’s death on September 12th was due to heart failure, noting that he suffered from pleurisy. It is likely, then, that Burt Harwood died as a result of pulmonary heart disease, a complication of the disease.

Former Harwood Museum of Art Curatorial Fellow James Kent observed that “Burt Harwood's own photographs capture the mystique of a heritage by now almost unknown to us. Yet, the old-time aesthetic of his nearly century-old prints and negatives eloquently mark the passing of an age, and thus the great gap that separates that culture from our own times.” If it was the task of Burt Harwood’s photography to record that culture, it has become the role of Burt and Lucy’s museum and collections – the Harwood Museum of Art - to preserve it as a living legacy.
 

          Jina Brenneman (former Curator)