Taos art colony

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The Taos art colony is an art colony which began in 1898 with the visit of Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein to Taos, New Mexico.

An article with drawings by Blumenschein about a ceremony at Taos Pueblo appeared in the July 10, 1898, issue of Harper's Weekly. Within a few years other artists joined them in Taos: Joseph Henry Sharp, W. Herbert Dunton, E. Irving Couse and Oscar E. Berninghaus. These six artists were the charter members of the Taos Society of Artists.

Many artists were drawn to Taos due to the presence of Mabel Dodge Luhan, an heiress who had run a prominent art salon in Florence, Italy, and Manhattan, New York, before settling in Taos, where she married a Pueblo man, Tony Luhan, and built a house. For decades, she invited artists, writers, and other creative people to stay with her in Taos. Many stayed and Taos grew as an art colony.

Taos is an artistic center and has many art galleries and museums including the home that Luhan built.

The Taos art colony was a groundbreaking association of European trained painters that collected around the visually spectacular Taos Pueblo in the North American southwest. The founding members fostered the emergence of a major school of American painting. Unlike other 'schools' or styles that emerged around the turn of the 19th century in the United States, the early Taos Colony artists were not united under a single manifesto or aesthetic modus, but equally lured by the stunning and, as yet, foreign environs.

Located in a tributary valley off the Rio Grande, Taos Pueblo (village) is the most northern of the New Mexico pueblos. For nearly a millennium, the Taos Indians have lived here. Contemporary native artists of Taos Pueblo create stunning handcrafted goods using methods passed down through generations of family artisans. Ancient artistic traditions have been manifested in native craft for generation; an important acknowledgement for understanding the inherent aesthetic allure of this area to the Euro-American artists.

In 1898, other such artists began flocking to Taos. Led by Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, American and European-born artists became entranced with the region’s beauty. Along with Blumenschein and Phillips, Eanger Irving Couse, Herbert S. Dunton, Oscar Edmund Berninghaus, and Joseph Henry Sharp united to form the Taos Society of Artists. These artists are considered the "Founding Six", or the founding fathers of the Taos art colony. The “Taos Six” applied academic technique to native themes to produce a uniquely American school of painting. Each artist's style was unique, though cross influence can certainly be noted as can strong elements of their European Academic artistic training. Aside from the inspiration of their environment, one quality early Taos colony paintings share is their vibrant palette of colors - not a common sight when paired with more traditional representational images and application of paint. Today, these artists are recognized for their contribution to artistic development and their scenes of Taos locales grace the walls of many museums.

Later, artists continued to be drawn to Taos by both the booming art colony and by the presence of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy heiress from Buffalo, New York. Mrs. Luhan had run a prominent art salon in Florence,Italy and in Manhattan before settling in Taos. There, she married a Pueblo native, Antonio Lujan, though she insisted on spelling her married name with an 'h' instead of 'j' as it was easier for her friends to discern the pronunciation. While in the Southwest, Mabel carried on the tradition of the European salon in its newest of iterations. For decades, she invited artists, writers, and other luminaries to be inspired by Taos and each other. Among them were Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, author D. H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda von Richthofen.

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