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Arnold Rönnebeck, The Sacred Mountain of Taos, N.M.

This modernistic rendition of Taos Mountain suggests deep shadowed crevices in the steep mountain dominating the mid portion of the print. The New Mexico sky features swirling clouds. Linear lines indicate the valley across the bottome of this energy filled work.
- Judith Kendall, I.S.A., AM

Arnold Rönnebeck
Born in Nassau, Germany, Arnold Ronnebeck became a noted sculptor and lithographer and was a strong advocate of modernist art. He traced his lineage back to nobility, and his father was a professor of architecture, a subject that the son studied for several years. Ronnebeck served in the German Guards in World War I and earned an Iron Cross for being wounded. He studied sculpture at the Royal Art School in Berlin and in Munich, and in 1908, moved to Paris where his teachers were Aristide Maillol and Emile Bourdelle. There he was a part of the avant-garde circle of Gertrude Stein, Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth.

In 1921, still recovering from war wounds, he visited the Italian coastal village of Positano and did landscape drawing from which he did his earliest prints. However, in that subject matter, he also had sculptual focus and described the scenery as 'one enormous work of sculpture, houses and rocks seemingly one.'

A year later, his fiancée Alice Miriam, a young American opera singer, died, and this tragedy combined with his family's increasing financial problems led him to emigrate to America. In 1923, he arrived in Washington DC and lived briefly with Miriam's family before moving to New York City. There he became a part of the avant-garde circle of creative people around Alfred Stieglitz. Ronnebeck's prints of the city skyscrapers reflected his fascination with the energy of that cosmopolitan atmosphere and also showed through his abstract, precisionist style his emotional responses to that environment.

It was at this time that he began to regard himself as a graphic artist, and working from photographs, he did pencil sketches that served as the basis for his lithographs. Several of his prints were reproduced in 'Vanity Fair' magazine.

Through Stieglitz, Ronnebeck met Erhard Wwyhe whose gallery had his first solo exhibition in May 1925. Composed of prints, drawings, and sculpture, the show had sixty pieces expressing subjects that had interested him for the last fifteen years.

That summer, Ronnebeck first went to Taos, where he was a guest of Mabel Dodge Luhan. He had been enouraged by Marsden Hartley to visit this artist's colony, and it was a life-changing experience relative to both his artistic and personal life. He was deeply impressed by the landscape and the native people, and he met his future wife, Louise Emerson (1901-1980) whom he married in New York in 1926. The couple returned to New Mexico through the late 20s and 1930s, and Ronnebeck completed a series of terra-cotta wall reliefs of Pueblo ceremonial dances for the public area of the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.

In 1926, the Ronnebecks settled in Denver, where he became Director of the Denver Art Museum. He resigned that position on 1930, but the couple remained in Colorado where both were active with WPA mural competitions. He also did numerous lithographs of landscapes and the American Artists Group distributed townscapes, especially mining towns, and his prints nationally.

By 1940, he was deeply discouraged by World War II, which brought back the painful memories of World War I, and his artistic productivity declined. He died in 1947 at age 62, having been very much a part of the art scene of early 20th century America. It is thought that removing himself from the East Coast to live in Colorado essentially removed him from the prominence in the art word that that milieu could have brought him.
The Sacred Mountain of Taos, N.M., c. 1940
image: 8 1/2 × 11 1/2 in. (21.6 × 29.2 cm)
Gift of David and Carol Farmer