Fine Arts Museum, Museum of New Mexico

Left: Plaza, Looking North, Santa Fe, February, 1997; Right: Detail of Front Facade, Fine Arts Museum, Santa Fe, 1997, photos by John Hazeltine

Santa Fe, NM

505. 827.4468


I Saw Whole Paintings Right Before My Eyes: The 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Taos Art Colony


Bert Geer Phillips, Three Museucians of the Baile, c. 1920-21, oil on canvas, 40 x 43 inches, gift of Governor and Mrs. Arthur Seligman, 1929


At first it looked like a spoke of bad luck, but when artists Ernest L. Blumenschein and Bert Geer Phillipsbroke their wagon wheel 20 miles outside Taos in 1898, it turned out to be the start of something big.

On Friday, Sept. 4, 1998 the Museum of Fine Arts marked the 100th anniversary of the twist of fate that led to the founding of the Taos Society of Artists and later, the Santa Fe art colony.

Curator of Education Ellen Zieselman says, "I've concentrated on works from our permanent collection that are not exhibited often, although there are several old favorites among the 33 paintings, prints and etchings in the show."

The Museum of Fine Arts is the only public institution to own the work of all 19 Taos Society of Artists members, Zieselman adds.

As their writings tell the story, Blumenschein and Phillips left New York in May, 1898 for a summer of sketching. They traveled by train to Denver and bought a wagon, horses and camp outfit, which they used for three months in Colorado. They turned south toward Mexico, had lost one horse by the end of August, and
broke the wagon wheel on Sept. 3 at the edge of a canyon near Taos. While Phillips stayed with the wagon, Blumenschein took the other horse and the broken wheel to Taos.

On his way, Blumenschein later observed, "I saw whole paintings right before my eyes." Blumenschein decided then and there to convince Phillips not to go on to Mexico, but to stay in Taos instead. Meanwhile, Phillips had spent three days done with the wagon, did some sketching and fell in love with the area on his own. The pair finally reached Taos, sold the wagon and set up residence. Phillips never left, becoming the first resident artist. Blumenschein returned east in the winter of 1898, painted in Taos during the summers, and settled permanently in Taos in 1919.

Other artists followed Blumenschein and Phillips. Because there were no galleries yet in Taos and the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe would not open for another two years, six artists formed the Taos Society of Artists in July 1915 to send their works to the Midwest and East Coast. Founders were Blumenschein, Phillips, Joseph Henry Sharp, Eanger Irving Couse, William Herbert "Buck"Dunton and Oscar E. Berninghaus.

At the time the group disbanded 11 years later, the 12 active members included the founders and William Victor Higgins, Julius Rolshoven , Walter Ufer, E. Martin Hennings, Catherine Critcher and Kenneth Adams. Among the seven associates were John Sloan, Albert L. Groll, Birger Sandzen, Robert Henri, Gustave Baumann, Randall Davey and Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt .

Museum of New Mexico founder Edgar L. Hewitt and museum and art patron Frank L. Springer were honorary members.

I Saw Whole Paintings Right Before My Eyes: The 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Taos Art Colony remains through March 8, 1999.

The Museum of Fine Arts is part of the Museum of New Mexico, a division of the New Mexico Office of Cultural Affairs and is located in an historic Pueblo revival building just off the northwest corner of the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM. Hours are 10am - 5pm (closed Mondays). Admission, as of February, 1999, is adults - $5 (four day pass for four museums - $8); New Mexico residents - $1 (Sunday only); children under 17 free .

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10

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