July 28, 2014 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

Masthead image Menu

Taos Society of Artists

The artistic culture of Taos spans centuries, however the establishment of the community as an art colony was due to the adventurous nature of several painters who came to Taos and became enchanted by the unique cultures, breathtaking landsapes and seemingly unspoiled way of life. Joseph Henry Sharp, a Cincinnati artist who had decided to make the painting of American Indians his life's work, made a trip to New Mexico during the summer of 1893. Taos particularly impressed him. When he studied art in Paris the following two years, he told others about New Mexico. Two colleagues, Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein, took his advice and decided to explore the area during a painting trip which was to take them to Mexico.

Blumenschein and Phillips were traveling from Denver to Mexico in September 1898 when their wagon wheel broke twenty miles north of Taos. Decided by the toss of a three-dollar gold piece, Blumenschein rode into Taos to get the wheel fixed while Phillips remained behind to guard their wagon. They found Taos and its Pueblo culture even more intriguing than Sharp's description of it and stayed to paint the Taos Pueblo Indians. Two months later, Blumenschein returned to New York City while Phillips remained in Taos. The two artists began writing to each other about the possibility of an art colony in Taos. Blumenschein talked about the beauty and artistic promise of northern New Mexico to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances both in New York and Paris. All three of these early painters envisioned an art colony founded on the model of the French Barbizon painters who, starting in the 1830s, took up summer quarters in the small village of Barbizon to paint directly from the landscape.

By 1912, Blumenschein, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, W. Herbert 'Buck' Dunton, and Joseph Sharp had arrived in Taos. These five plus Phillips shared a strong attraction to Taos and formalized their relationship by creating the Taos Society of Artists, which existed from 1915 to 1927. The Society sent traveling shows of its Members' works throughout the country. The images they created, frequently of American Indians in traditional garb, northern New Mexico Hispanos and old-timer Anglo-Americans, as well as landscapes, came to define the first decades of the art colony.

The Dorothy and Jack Brandenburg Gallery features works by members of the Taos Society of Artists including Victor Higgin's most important painting, Winter Funeral, as well as work by noted American Modernists.