Editor’s Letter | Painting the Southwest

A new exhibit features the Taos Society of Artists

By Kristin Hoerth

E.M. Hennings, Homeward Bound (1933-34), oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor.

E.M. Hennings, Homeward Bound (1933-34), oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor.

This story was featured in the January 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  January 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Ask me to name a favorite artist, and I’m at a loss; there are far too many wonderful artists to pick just one. But ask me to name some of my favorite artists’ groups, and the Taos Society of Artists would certainly be near the top of the list. I’ve always been drawn to the vibrant colors, and the colorful subject matter, of their paintings.

So I’m happy to tell you that there’s a major exhibition called The Taos Society of Artists opening this month in Arizona. It’s happening at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, a relatively new museum in downtown Scottsdale. The exhibition features a selection of artwork by many of the society’s members, which are on loan from museums and other institutions as well as private collections across the country. It’s co-curated by longtime western art scholar Peter Hassrick and Western Spirit’s chief curator, Tricia Loscher, and it’s sponsored by the Scottsdale Art Auction.

The Taos Society of Artists was founded in 1915 by six artists: Oscar Berninghaus, Ernest Blumenschein, E.I. Couse, W.H. Dunton, Bert Phillips, and Joseph Sharp. It grew to include, among others, E.M. Hennings, Victor Higgins, Walter Ufer, and Catharine Critcher (the only female member) as well as associate members like Gustave Baumann, Robert Henri, and John Sloan. Most of the artists had been trained in Paris and Munich, and they brought European aesthetic conventions to their work. They also shared a love of the Southwest’s landscape and people, especially the Hispanic and Pueblo Indian communities. The members collaborated, critiqued each other’s works, and organized exhibitions that traveled throughout the country. But while the Taos art colony went on to thrive, the Taos Society of Artists disbanded just 12 years later, in 1927.

In conjunction with this exhibition, the museum is hosting a symposium April 6-7. Speakers include Barbara Brandenburg Brenner, granddaughter of Oscar Berninghaus; Virginia Couse Leavitt, granddaughter of E.I. Couse and founder of The Couse Foundation; and Marie Watkins, professor emerita of art history at Furman University in Greenville, SC.

If you have the chance to see this exhibition, I hope you enjoy it. I know I will!

This story was featured in the January 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  January 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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