Editor’s Letter | Serendipity in Taos

Joseph Sharp, Visions of the Past [date unknown], oil, 20 x 24, from the collection of the Museum of the Southwest, gift of Fred T. and Novadean Hogan., painting, southwest art.
Joseph Sharp, Visions of the Past [date unknown], oil, 20 x 24, from the collection of the Museum of the Southwest, gift of Fred T. and Novadean Hogan.

By Margaret L. Brown

A hundred years ago this month, two young artists named Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips were on their way to Mexico from Denver, CO, when their wagon wheel broke about 20 miles north of Taos, NM. A coin toss determined that Blumenschein would take the wheel into town for repair while Phillips stayed with the wagon. Blumenschein, enchanted by the landscape and its Native American inhabitants, later described his two-day trip as “the most impressive journey of my life.” Phillips was similarly enthralled. The two painters, who had lived in New York, studied in Paris, and were on their way to adventure south of the border, discovered the inspiration they were seeking in Taos.

The “broken-wheel incident” marked the beginning of the Taos art colony, for Phillips remained there for most of his life. Blumenschein stayed only six weeks but later returned to settle there too. In 1915, the two artists, along with Joseph Sharp, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E.I. Couse, and W. Herbert Dunton, formed the Taos Society of Artists. Since Taos had no art galleries at the time and tourists had yet to flood the town, the society arranged exhibitions in museums and galleries across the country.

In this issue, Michael Grauer, curator of art at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, TX, writes about Texans’ interest in these early Taos artists. “The proliferation of historic Taos art in both public and private collections across Texas is an interesting chapter in American art patronage,” he says. Our Art Adventure beginning on page 38 also takes you to Taos, highlighting museum exhibits and other shows celebrating the colony’s 100th anniversary.

A new column titled Artists to Watch debuts in this issue as well. The column introduces four up-and-coming artists whose works you may want to consider adding to your collection. Among this month’s artists to watch is Californian Rodolfo Rivademar. A plein-air painter, Rivademar says, “I paint nature because it nurtures and invigorates me and because I feel compelled to preserve the beauty that may soon be gone.”

Rivademar’s words echo the sentiments of the Taos founders, who sought to capture on canvas a changing New Mexico. W. Herbert Dunton summed up his feelings as follows: “The West has passed—more’s the pity. In another 25 years the old-time westerner will have gone, too—gone with the buffalo and the antelope. I’m still going to hand down to posterity a bit of the unadulterated real thing, if it’s the last thing I do—and I’m going to do it, muy pronto.”

Here’s to a joyful bit of serendipity 100 years ago in Taos.

Featured in September 1998