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Three Taos Pueblo Painters


The Harwood Museum will present an important exhibition opening January, 2003 featuring three artists from Taos Pueblo: Albert Looking Elk Martinet (ca. 1888-1940), Albert Lujan (1892-1948) and Juan Mirabal (ca. 1903-1970). The exhibition will feature their paintings and include a catalog about their careers. Three Taos Pueblo Painters will be shown at the Harwood from January 24 to April 20, 2003. (left: Albert Lujan (1892-1948), Untitled, oil on panel)

Beginning in the 1920s, Albert Lujan, Albert Looking Elk Martinez, and Juan Mirabal painted images of their pueblo surroundings. They sold their paintings primarily to tourists visiting the Pueblo. Exploring their own respective visions of the Pueblo, their oil paintings were unlike ledger-book style illustrations then popular with Native artists. Instead, they did easel paintings in a highly realistic style. These Pueblo artists made an active living from their painting talent that interpreted their culture through images which found favor with visiting tourists.

Albert Looking Elk Martinet (1888-1940) modeled for Taos Society of Artists painter Oscar Berninghaus beginning in the early 1900s. Berninghaus gave his a Christmas gift of brushes and paint supplies and at least a few lessons beginning around 1915. Over the next ten years, Looking Elk continually improved his work and eventually made a living from his art sales. In the late 1930s, Looking Elk served as Governor of Taos Pueblo.

Albert Lujan (1892-1948) a fiscal (deacon) of the Taos Pueblo church was working there on interior painting and repairs when, over the lunch hour while the church's painters took a break, he began trying his artistic skills. A passer-by took an interest in his work and then helped Lujan find real painting supplies in Taos. Lujan ultimately made a living from plein-air (in the open) painting, passing out business cards and selling an estimated 2,000+ paintings from his easel. Visitors watched him painting or found signs directing them to his curio shop.

Juan W. Mirabal (1903-1970) was an occasional model for Taos artists. He took art lessons from artist-actress Marjorie Eaten and painter-instructor Louis Ribak. A muralist as well as a realist painter of Taos Pueblo, its people and its environs, Mirabal's painting career extended the longest of the three artists. (right: Juan W. Mirabal (1903-1970), Untitled, oil on panel)

This exhibition is the first to feature these three artists who have been almost entirely unknown to the outside world. Three Taos Pueblo Painters is an exploration of the art and lives of Lujan, Martinez, and Mirabal. Included are outstanding examples of their art (around forty oil paintings) in addition to photographs and historic post cards from their time.

A panel discussion about the art and lives of the artists will be held on Thursday January 30, 2003 beginning at 7 pm. Panelists will include: Ron Martinez Looking Elk, Vernon Geronimo Lujan, Joann Soge Track, and Brad Taylor. The moderator will be David L. Witt, curator of the Harwood Museum.

RL Editor's note:

The following TFAO photo library image allow viewers of the artwork above to compare a photographic image with the artist's interpretation of the scene. Volunteers are invited to survey the images of paintings and sculptures contained in Resource Library and choose related scenes for photography.


(above: Taos Pueblo, 2005, photo by B. A. Hazeltine, © 2005 B.A. Hazeltine)


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Harwood Museum in Resource Library.

rev. 1/9/06

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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