Editor’s Letter | Taos Master

A new exhibition of Walter Ufer’s work

By Kristin Hoerth

Walter Ufer, Jim and His Daughter, oil, 40 x 50. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Walter Ufer, Jim and His Daughter, oil, 40 x 50. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

There have been more than 500 covers of Southwest Art magazine since its founding in 1971, and I’ve watched about half of them come to life during my tenure, but there’s one in particular that I’ll always remember: The August 1994 cover features a painting by Oscar Berninghaus in which an Indian man holds a large pumpkin. It’s a beautiful painting full of rich blues, purples, and browns, and the man looks out at you with a piercing gaze. It’s the very first issue that I ever worked on, so it made a lasting impression.

Ever since then, I’ve had a particular affinity for the works of the early Taos artists—a group that includes Berninghaus as well as Ernest Blumenschein, Bert Phillips, Joseph Sharp, Walter Ufer, E.I. Couse, W.H. Dunton, Victor Higgins, and E. Martin Hennings. I’m especially drawn to their saturated colors and lush brush strokes. So I was happy to hear that a major exhibition of Ufer’s work is on view from February 7 through May 11 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Titled Walter Ufer: Rise, Fall, Resurrection, the exhibit features 50 works, including many of his masterpieces; it also includes more than a dozen works by Ufer’s contemporaries. The show honors the centennial of Ufer’s first trip to Taos in 1914, and it’s curated by Dean Porter, Director Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame’s Snite Museum of Art and an expert on Ufer. The National Cowboy Museum is the only venue for this exhibition.

Ufer was one of the more controversial and enigmatic figures in the Taos Society of Artists. He achieved great artistic success during his lifetime, winning major awards and enjoying strong support from his patrons. But he also suffered from alcoholism and had nearly constant financial struggles, both of which adversely affected his work. Still, he is respected for canvases that portray the culture and character of the Pueblo Indians with penetrating honesty and power. Walter Ufer: Rise, Fall, Resurrection is sure to offer a fascinating picture of a compelling artist.

Featured in the February 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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