At 12,000 feet above sea level, Taos Peak looms over the surrounding Rio Grande Valley, beckoning travelers who pass beneath its shadow. Legend holds that the mountain emits a mystical energy that can summon newcomers or send them packing. More than a thousand years ago, the “Red Willow” people of the Tiwa tribe embraced Taos Mountain as their spiritual home and built the multi-storied Taos Pueblo at its base.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, East Coast artists began to flock to the nearby village of Taos, attracted by the clarity of the air, the charismatic light, and the vibrant colors of the landscape. Kindred spirits followed in their wake, including the many modernist artists inspired by Taos Mountain whose work has been collected for this exhibition.
1. Morris Blackburn (1902-1979). “The Backyard,” 1966-68. Oil-resin over acrylic on masonite, 18 x 24." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Frame: 23 1/2 x 29 1/2. Private collection. NFS
This is an intimate portrait of Taos Mountain by Morris Blackburn (1902–1979), who painted this view from the backyard of his summer residence in Taos, and called it simply “The Backyard.” A masterful painter, printmaker, and graphic artist, he was a legendary teacher at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
2. Fremont Ellis (1897-1985). “Taos Mountain,” c. 1940s. Oil on canvas board, 10 1/4 x 12 1/4." Signed, l.l. Excellent condition. Gilt frame, 15 x 17 1/2." $15,000.
“True Impressionism is not a way of painting, not a method, but a point of view.” —Fremont Ellis
“. . . these men believe in color and are not afraid to use it. Upon entering the galleries, visitors are greeted with a great shout of color that’s almost stimulating.” (from a review of Los Cinco Pintores’ inaugural exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe)
3. Theo B. White (1902-1978). “Taos Mountain,” c. 1934. Lithograph 12/23, 8 1/2 x 12 1/2." Artist’s monogram in stone, l.r. Excellent. Black lacquer frame with a red rub and box mat, 17 x 21." $9,500.
Theo White (1902–1978) created this bold depiction of Taos Mountain following his travels to New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada in the 1930s. He was inspired by his journey through the Southwest to develop a series of lithographs drawn from the scenes he observed, focused primarily on landscapes and religious themes of the Taos and Santa Fe areas. In these works, White employed a spare modernist approach, paring down landscape and architectural subjects to nearly elemental forms.
4. Gene Kloss (1903-1996). “A Race Before the Storm, Taos,” 1940s. Watercolor, 18 x 24 1/2." Signed, l.r. Excellent. Gold-leaf frame with red rub, carved corners, and linen liner: 25 1/2 x 32." $15,000.
“Whether in the print or the watercolor, her hills and mountains are exquisite in color and shading, combining delicacy and power in a curiously individual fashion. Her system of values is deep and rich, yet lighthanded, luminous, and deftly suggestive. No one hereabouts composes a landscape with such a perfect simplicity and inevitable rightness.” —Alfred Frankenstein
5. Gene Kloss (1903-1996). “Ranchito,” 1936. Drypoint from an edition of 30. 9 x 12" plate mark. Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Silver leaf frame with black rub, 18 x 20 1/2." $14,000.
“Originally from California but a resident of Taos since 1929, Kloss was by the 1930s already in full command of the complex copperplate processes — including etching, drypoint, aquatint, soft ground, and mezzotint — which she was to employ with sensitivity for more than fifty years.” —Clinton Adams
6. Morris Blackburn (1902-1979). “Adobe Mission” [Ranchos de Taos Church], 1962. Screen print, 30/30, 10 x 14." Signed, l.r. Fine. Carved, gold leaf frame with a red rub and box mat, 20 x 23." $4,500.
Offered here is a wonderful modernist interpretation of the Ranchos de Taos Church by the Philadelphia artist Morris Blackburn. Noted for his ingenious use of printmaking materials and techniques, he was one of the first artists in the early 1940s to use screen printing for fine art prints. In his image of the famous church located in the small New Mexican village of Ranchos de Taos just south of Taos, Blackburn took advantage of the inherent flatness of the screen printing process to define the bold geometry of the structure.
7. Lawrence Calcagno (1913-1993). “Taos Mountain,” 1972. Acrylic on canvas, 28 x 40." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Silver leaf frame, 29 x 41." $9,000.
“. . . Every public value seemed to be an aggressive one toward material success and I was just the isolated lost person because my life was motivated by what I loved. It was [Clifford] Still who made me and many other people like myself realize that this was of some value, this intuition. This inner compulsion we had was valid and should be respected, not only by ourselves but by the whole community and the society. . .” —Lawrence Calcagno
8. Eric Gibberd (1897-1972). “Taos Mountain,” 1951. Oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 15 1/2." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Brown oak, linen, and gold leaf frame, 13 1/2 x 15 1/2." [SOLD.]
“Eric Gibberd obviously has a crush on nature. And nature, sensing his devotion, seems to return the compliment by turning to him her most expressive, dramatic face. . . Gibberd applies paint liberally in all his work, but in the mountain pictures he carries this to deliberate extremes. He generally succeeds because of his strongly disciplined special compositions — which in fact demand bold color to compliment them.” —Barbara Haddad
9. Karl Buehr (1866-1952). “Taos Pueblo,” c. 1925. Oil on canvas, 25 x 30." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Carved gold leaf frame, 32 x 37." $35,000.
“One of the early Chicago artists to adopt Impressionism, Karl Buehr became a figure and landscape painter. . . In his landscapes, he was noted for his strong coloration. In a December 1896 student exhibition at the Art Institute, a reviewer for the Chicago Times Herald described Buehr's landscapes as "blithe and joyous" with "country roads brilliant in sunlight . . . fields rich in summer verdure, under soft skies painted in a high, musical key.” (Gerdts 68) —Lonnie Pierson Dunbier
10. Ethel Magafan (1916-1993). “Above the Desert,” c. 1950. Tempera on masonite, 28 1/2 x 40." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Frame: 33 3/4 x 45 1/2." $16,500.
“. . . Ethel Magafan and her twin sister, Jenne Magafan, were highly respected artists among their peers. . . [W]hen Jenne won the Carter Memorial Art Scholarship of ninety dollars, she shared it with her sister and they both attended the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. . . Both won Fullbright Scholarships and Tiffany Foundation Awards, and Jenne studied in Italy and Ethel in Greece. . . Ethel continued to have a highly successful career, painting numerous murals for the federal government including the U.S. Senate Chamber. In 1968, she was elected an Academician of the National Academy of Design.” —Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein, “American Women Artists”
11. Lucille W. Leggett (1896-1966). “New Mexico Village,” 1950s. Oil on canvas board, 12 x 16." Signed, l.l. Fine. Hand-made frame with gold leaf, 16 1/4 x 20." $4,800.
Working with the high-keyed palette and individualized brushwork of impressionism, Leggett conveyed the sun-drenched colors and pellucid light of the desert sky in paintings of adobe houses, ranches, ghost towns, and natural features. She was particularly interested in the local way of life and its heritage, an inclination apparent in the present work, which is untitled, but which depicts a charming New Mexican village scene. Leggett presents a vignette of daily life: a compound of adobe houses is nestled against the deep-blue backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
12. Lucille W. Leggett (1896-1966). “Taos Church,” c. 1950s. Oil on canvas board, 16 x 12." Signed, l.r. Inscribed on verso: Taos Church. Very fine. Period gold-toned frame, 22 1/2 x 18 1/2." $4,500.
In Taos Church, Leggett’s lively, bright colors suggest influences from the folk traditions indigenous to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico. Taos Church depicts one of the lesser-known churches in Taos with Taos Mountain looming in the background. Leggett portrays the church from its distinctively shaped façade. Three worshippers approach the entrance through the outside wall. The forms and brushwork in the church building, distant mountain, trees and clouds participate in an uplifting motion, harmonizing with the spirit of the subject.
13. Vincenzo Maria Coronelli / Jean Baptist Nolin. “Le Nouveau Mexique . . .” (1742 ). Copperplate engraving, 17 3/4 x 23 1/2" neat line. Excellent, strong impression. Handsome archival presentation in gold-tone frame: 27 1/4 x 32 3/4." $13,500.
In 1742, Jean Baptist Nolin II published the present map, a reissue of Coronelli’s famous map of the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, originally published by Nolin’s father in 1688. This second edition map is the rarer of the two. The Coronelli / Nolin map was the best large-scale map of New Mexico produced in the seventeenth century. It was the earliest map to depict the Spanish discoveries along the upper Rio Grande, including Taos Pueblo and Taos Mountain.
14. William Lumpkins (1909-2000). “Cluster of Adobes,” 1969. Watercolor on paper, 16 1/4 x 22 1/4." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Ben Joyce brown oak frame with beveled silk mat, 28 x 33." $8,750.
Born in Clayton, New Mexico, Lumpkins began in his youth to explore a vigorous approach to watercolor. After architectural study in California and some appointments in the WPA, Lumpkins moved to Santa Fe and became associated with its modernist artists, including Jozef Bakos, Raymond Jonson, Willard Nash, and B.J.O. Nordfeldt. Considered heirs to Russian Constructivism, Futurism, and the Bauhaus, their influence on Lumpkins work was profound, and Lumpkins went on to master his own expression in abstract terms.
15. Ila McAfee (1897-1995). “Friend or Foe?” c. 1950. Lithograph, 17 3/4 x 13 1/4." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Larson-Juhl black lacquer frame with red rub, and deep bevel mat, 28 3/4 x 23 3/4." $5,500.
This dramatic lithograph by Taos artist Ila McAfee (1897–1995) shows three Indians high in the mountains of the Sangre de Cristo peering into the distance below where a tiny figure on horseback approaches them. The sophisticated abstract interplay of compositional elements reflects the impact of modernism on McAfee’s work after she moved to Taos in the 1920s. Although McAfee would never be called a modernist per se, she nonetheless embarked on bold experiments with color and geometric form after being exposed to its ideas.
16. Gene Kloss (1903-1996). “In Rancho de Taos,” 1973. Etching, AP/75, 5 1/2 x 8." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Silver frame with a red rub, 17 x 18 1/2." $5,000.
“I want the finished print to enable the viewer to see the design, the subject matter from across the room, at arm’s length or under a magnifying glass — also upside-down for satisfactory abstract design. . . Art is life to me and is plastic thought. . .” —Gene Kloss
17. Emil Bisttram (1895-1976). “Storm over Taos,” 1930s. Watercolor, 19 x 24." Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Silver leaf frame with a red rub and silk mat, 27 x 32 1/2." [SOLD.]
Emil Bisttram (1895–1976) came to New Mexico having absorbed the ideas of modernist abstraction and the international style of representation. By his own account, when Bisttram finally came into contact with the spirituality and art of Native Americans in New Mexico, his many artistic influences and goals found resolution.
18. Howard Cook (1901 - 1980). “The Lobo,” 1927. Etching from an edition of 50, 4 x 6" plate mark. Signed, l.r. Excellent condition. Black frame: 13 x 14 1/2." $2,500.
In his lifetime, Howard Norton Cook (1901-1980) developed a national reputation as a painter and muralist. Today, however, he is better known as one of America’s premier printmakers. In 1926, “Cook was sent by Forum to New Mexico to do illustrations of the region. . . Lured by accounts of Indian ceremonies, Cook traveled from Santa Fe north to Taos . . . [and] was so captivated that he decided to remain right there. . .” (Douglas Duffy)