Editor’s Letter | Southwest Expressionist

Remembering painter Robert Daughters

By Kristin Hoerth

Robert Daughters in an undated photo.

Robert Daughters in an undated photo.

Last month on this page, I noted the passing of Dave McGary, one of our region’s most widely recognized sculptors. This month, unfortunately, I must mention the passage of another important western artist: painter Robert Daughters died on October 24 at the age of 84 in Rogers, AR.

Daughters was born in 1929 in Missouri. After graduating from high school, he served in the Army for several years and then attended the Kansas City Art Institute. He joined an advertising firm in Kansas City, spending the next two decades earning countless awards in the world of commercial art.

But he had already had his first tantalizing encounter with the Southwest, on a honeymoon visit to Taos in 1953. “When I first came to Taos,” he once said, “I smelled piñon from the fireplaces. The plaza was unpaved. There were few cars. It was very quiet, not many people and a lot of unspoiled scenery.” Like the Taos Founders before him, he was enchanted by the land and the creativity it inspired. In 1972, he seized the chance to leave the advertising world behind and moved to Taos. “In commercial art you paint the way you think people see something instead of painting the way you see it or want to see it. The differece is commercial expression as opposed to self-expression,” he said.

Village Winds by Robert Daughters

Village Winds by Robert Daughters

Daughters’ early work was realistic, but he soon began to develop the expressionistic style for which he would become widely recognized, with its dark outlines and short, textured brush strokes that have reminded many viewers of the work of Vincent van Gogh. He also joined up with five other realist painters—Ray Vinella, Rod Goebel, Walt Gonske, Julian Robles, and Ron Barsano—who called themselves “The Taos Six,” holding joint shows and promoting their work together. He gained great prominence for his depictions of the churches, villages, chamisa, rivers, and streams that make up the New Mexico landscape. For some 20 years, Daughters lived and painted in the historic Taos home that once belonged to famed painter Oscar Berninghaus.

Daughters’ work graced the cover of Southwest Art in September 1993, and he was subsequently included in the magazine’s Covering the West traveling exhibition in 1995-1996, which celebrated our 25th anniversary. He was also included in our “30 Stars of 30 Years” special issue in celebration of our 30th anniversary in 2001. We join the rest of the western art world in bidding farewell to an artist who portrayed the region with great energy and emotion.

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