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Taos Municipal School Historic Collection

Artist: Ila McAfee
Title: Horses Near Foothills
Date: n.d.
Medium: oil
Dimensions: Overall: 18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm)
Ila McAfee United States (1897-1995)
Ila McAfee was born in a Colorado ranching community, ten miles from the nearest schoolhouse. Her artistic interest began early and centered upon horses, which she would draw as a child. She received her B.A. from Western State College. Her formal art education was at the Haz Studio School in Los Angeles and the Art Institute of Chicago. Displeased with the quality of instruction, she decided to study under one particular painter she had taken courses with in Chicago, James E. McBurney. McBurney was a muralist, and took McAfee on as his assistant for several years, after which she traveled to New York to study at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League.

While in New York, McAfee worked as an illustrator and a painter of miniatures. In 1926, McAfee returned to Colorado and married Elmer Page Turner, an artist. She and Turner moved to Taos in 1928 to be a part of the burgeoning art movement of the region. There, they built White Horse Studio, which would serve as their studio and home until 1993. In Taos, McAfee painted landscapes and figures, but her specialty remained animals, specifically horses. She also took up work as an illustrator of children’s books. She worked on a number of murals, as well, though she was most famous during her lifetime for something entirely unrelated to her art; she owned a series of cats, all named Sanka, whom she taught as many as seventy five tricks each.
Ila McAfee
Artist: Otto Curtis
Title: Iris
Date: n.d.
Medium: watercolor
Dimensions: Framed: 28 1/2 x 21 7/8 in. (72.4 x 55.6 cm)
Otto Curtis
Otto Curtis
Artist: Angelino Ravagli
Title: Kiowa Ranch Coral (corral)
Date: 1930's
Medium: oil on plywood panel
Dimensions: Framed: 22 1/4 x 35 1/8 in. (56.5 x 89.2 cm)
Angelino Ravagli (1891-1975)
Angelino Ravagli
Artist: Martin Shaffer
Title: La Fonda Hotel
Date: 1944
Medium: black and white photo
Dimensions: Overall: 19 x 15 in. (48.3 x 38.1 cm) Framed: 26 x 25 1/4 in. (66 x 64.1 cm)
Martin Shaffer (1913-1985)
Martin Shaffer
Artist: Charles Stewart
Title: Life and Death and Resurrection
Date: 1981
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 50 1/4 x 40 1/4 in. (127.6 x 102.2 cm) Framed: 46 x 57 in. (116.8 x 144.8 cm)
Charles Stewart (1922 - 2011)
Charles Stewart
Artist: Woody Crumbo
Title: Medicine Song
Date: n.d.
Medium: serigraph
Dimensions: Overall: 12 x 9 3/4 in. (30.5 x 24.8 cm) Framed: 21 x 18 in. (53.3 x 45.7 cm)
Woody Crumbo United States, Creek, Potawatomi (1912-1989)
Crumbo was born in Lexington, Oklahoma, the son of an Indian mother and a French father. He attended government schools as a child and showed such promise that he received a scholarship to the American Indian Institute in Wichita for his last two years of high school. While at the Institute, he became interested in expressing Indian tradition and culture through his art. After three years at the University of Wichita he transferred to the University of Oklahoma where he studied with Oscar B. Jacobson. At the early age of 21, Crumbo was appointed Director of Indian Art at Bacone College, the only institute of higher learning exclusively for Indians. Bacone offered Crumbo the unique opportunity to familiarize himself with his heritage and to instill in him cultural pride. At that time he conducted research into Indian design and revived ancient techniques of silverwork, vegetable dying, and weaving.

Crumbo’s career has been diverse; known also as a musician and Indian ceremonial dancer, Crumbo played the cedar wood flute and danced with Thurlow Lieurance’s symphony in Wichita. He also worked as a designer with the Douglas Corporation, with the Gilcrease Collection in Tulsa, and from 1960 to 1968 as curator of the El Paso Museum of Art.

A Pottawatomie Indian, Crumbo explores in his art the traditions and ceremonies of his own tribe as well as those of the Creek, Sioux, and Kiowa nations, and says of his work, ​“I have always painted with the desire of developing Indian art so that it may be judged on art standards rather on its value as a curio—I am attempting to record Indian customs and legends now, while they are alive, to make them a part of the great American culture before these, too, become lost, only to be fragmentarily pieced together by fact and supposition.

Crumbo works in oil and egg tempera, as well as in watercolor, sculpture, stained glass, and silkscreen. Under the guidance of Olle Nordmark, he also learned etching. The largest collection of Crumbo’s work, about 175 paintings, is owned by the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, although his work has been exhibited in many museums throughout the United States.
Woody Crumbo
Artist: Agnes Martin
Title: Mid Winter
Date: n.d.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 33 x 48 in. (83.8 x 121.9 cm)
Agnes Martin United States (1912-2004)
Born on a farm in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, Agnes Martin immigrated to the United States in 1932 in the hopes of becoming a teacher. After earning a degree in art education, she moved to the desert plains of Taos, New Mexico, where she made abstract paintings with organic forms, which attracted the attention of renowned New York gallerist Betty Parsons, who convinced the artist to join her roster and move to New York in 1957. There, Martin lived and worked on Coenties Slip, a street in Lower Manhattan, alongside a community of artists—including Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, and Jack Youngerman—who were all drawn to the area’s cheap rents, expansive loft spaces and proximity to the East River. Harbor Number 1 (1957), one of Martin’s earliest New York paintings, combines the geometric abstraction of her earlier Taos work with the newfound inspiration of the harbor landscape, evident in her choice of blue-gray palette.

Over the course of the next decade, Martin developed her signature format: six by six foot painted canvases, covered from edge to edge with meticulously penciled grids and finished with a thin layer of gesso. Though she often showed with other New York abstractionists, Martin’s focused pursuit charted new terrain that lay outside of both the broad gestural vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism and the systematic repetitions of Minimalism. Rather, her practice was tethered to spirituality and drew from a mix of Zen Buddhist and American Transcendentalist ideas. For Martin, painting was “a world without objects, without interruption… or obstacle. It is to accept the necessity of … going into a field of vision as you would cross an empty beach to look at the ocean.”1

In 1967, at the height of her career, Martin faced the loss of her home to new development, the sudden death of her friend Ad Reinhardt, and the growing strain of mental illness; she left New York, and returned to Taos, where she abandoned painting, instead pursuing writing and meditation in isolation. Her return to painting in 1974 was marked by a subtle shift in style: no longer defined by the delicate graphite grid, compositions such as Untitled Number 5 (1975) display bolder geometric schemes—like distant relatives of her earliest works. In these late paintings, Martin evoked the warm palette of the arid desert landscape where she remained for the rest of her life.

Introduction by Jennifer Harris
Agnes Martin
Artist: Emil Bisttram
Title: Morning Light
Date: 1958
Medium: oil
Dimensions: Overall: 18 x 32 in. (45.7 x 81.3 cm) Framed: 22 x 38 in. (55.9 x 96.5 cm)
Emil Bisttram Hungary, United States (1895-1976)
Emil Bisttram was born in Hungary, near the Romanian border, in 1895. When he was 11 years old, his family immigrated to New York City. Emil grew up in the tenement buildings that had become the destination for so many Eastern European immigrant families. He was a talented artist, and after a few years began his schooling at the National Academy of Art and Design, then Cooper Union, Parsons, and The Art Student's League. Most of his studies were completed through night courses, as he was working as a commercial artist to support himself. His eagerness to study would translate to a love of and great skill for teaching. He began teaching soon after completing school, first at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, and then at the Master Institute of the Roerich Museum.

Bisttram first visited Taos during the summer of 1930. He went initially to escape the hardship of life in New York following the stock market crash. He returned to New York and the following year won a Guggenheim Fellowship to study mural painting. The fellowship enabled Bisttram to travel to Mexico where he studied mural painting with the world famous muralist Diego Rivera. Numerous mural commissions were to follow throughout his career, including murals for the Department of Justice in Washington D.C., The Taos County Courthouse, New Mexico, and the Federal Courthouse in Roswell, New Mexico.

After finishing his studying with Rivera, Bisttram returned immediately to Taos where he founded the Taos School of Art and remained its director for the rest of his life. Bisttram came to be much admired as a teacher. He was an extremely articulate individual, and was as skilled at explaining concepts of composition, drawing and painting as he was at applying those concepts to his own paintings. The school was very well attended, particularly during the summer months. Further demonstrating his skills as an administrator, the following year Bisttram started the first commercial art gallery in Taos, the Heptagon Gallery.

Bisttram first came to Taos as a representational painter. His canvases show stylized renderings of Native American dancers, portraits of natives and Mexicans, as well as depictions of local architecture. He soon began to experiment with non-objective forms in his paintings. He became heavily influenced by the work and philosophy of the painter Wassily Kandinsky. In 1938 Bisttram, along with Raymond Johnson and several other painters, founded the Transcendental Painting Group in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The aim of the group was to work to bring painting beyond the appearance of the physical world. Bisttram continued to be extremely active in the artistic growth of New Mexico for the rest of his life. In 1952 he co-founded the Taos Art Association. In 1959, a retrospective of Bisttam's work was held at the Harwood Art Museum in Taos. As a final honor, and tribute to one who done so much for the artistic community and the identity of New Mexico as a whole, in 1975 April 7th was declared "Emil Bisttram Day," a New Mexico state holiday. The next year, 1976, Emil Bisttram died at the age of 81.
Emil Bisttram
Artist: Jack Berkman
Title: Mountains and Horses
Date: 1948
Medium: oil
Dimensions: Overall: 28 x 33 in. (71.1 x 83.8 cm) Framed: 30 1/2 x 30 1/4 in. (77.5 x 76.8 cm)
Jack Berkman (1908-1999)
Jack Berkman