Sign on
gPowered byeMuseum

Taos Moderns Learn More

The 1940s was an important transition period for the Taos art community. A group of modernist artists arrived who would set a new artistic course for a generation. Following World War II, Taos became an important crossroads in contemporary American art, a place where the influences of European and American modernism came together. Artists from New York and San Francisco, the cradles of post-war abstract painting, found in Taos a conducive place to work devoid of the distractions of the big cities. Many of the modernist artists arrived in Taos with little if any knowledge of the earlier artists, as if inexplicably drawn to the Town's inherently creative atmosphere. Many came to study under the G.I. bill.

Joining Andrew Dasburg as mentor to these new artists in 1939 was Thomas Benrimo, another early American modernist. New York artist Louis Ribak arrived in Taos in 1944 with his wife, painter Beatrice Mandelman, and emerged as a leader of the younger generation. Agnes Martin, now an internationally acclaimed artist came to Taos a few years later as a student with the University of New Mexico's summer Field School of Art. In the early 1950s, Clay Spohn, an abstract expressionist, and Edward Corbett, an artist with a growing reputation as a modernist, arrived from San Francisco. Their colleague, Richard Diebenkorn, although not a Taos resident, showed at the Town's premier art gallery, Galeria Escondida, as well as the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where he received a Masters Degree in Art in 1951. In the same way that the Taos Art Colony in earlier decades attracted other artists to the area, these new artists were visited by their friends and associates, including such major figures as Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Clyfford Still and Morris Graves.

The influx of dozens of artists by the 1950s had established Taos as one of the centers of modernist artistic activity in the United States. In the middle part of the decade, a number of them began showing together in art galleries and museums and were collectively known as the Taos Moderns. Although they never created a formal group such as the Taos Society of Artists had done, they changed the artistic direction of the community.

Their paintings were either abstract, using subject matter, or non-objective compositions of pure form. The stark New Mexico landscape brightened their palettes just as it had that of earlier artists. Cultural influences continued to be important as well. The timelessness they perceived in Pueblo Indian culture and the deep connection to the land they noted in the everyday life of both Indians and Hispanics influence experimentation and innovation in their own art.

If there was any one guiding philosophy during this period, it was a commitment by artists to seek 'the new' in their visual imagery. Many of them were not content with depicting the surface beauty of the landscape or the figurative portraits done by earlier artists. Instead, they wanted to capture the underlying structure of a subject to reveal its true meaning.

Sorted AscendingTitleDateArtistClassificationDimensions
Carnival #12c. 1990Beatrice Mandelman
Beatrice Mandelman (1912 - 1998)
Born on December 31, 1912 in Newark, New Jersey, from an early age Beatrice Mandelman was determined to be an artist. At age 12, she began taking classes at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art. In the 1930s, she attended Rutgers University, the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art and the Art Students League in New York City.

http://www.mandelman-ribak.org/beatrice_mandelman/biography.php
painting Overall: 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm)
Carpe Diem, I1972Robert D. Ray
Robert D. Ray (1924 - 2002)
Dates in Taos: 1954
painting Overall: 8 13/16 x 8 13/16 in. (22.4 x 22.4 cm) Framed: 10 1/16 x 10 1/16 x 1 7/16 in. (25.5 x 25.5 x 3.6 cm)
Christmas Eve at Taos Pueblo1961Dorothy Eugenie Brett
Dorothy Eugenie Brett Great Britain (1883 - 1977)
Dorothy Eugénie Brett was a British painter, remembered as much for her social life as for her art. Born into an aristocratic British family, she lived a sheltered early life. During her student years at the Slade School of Art, she associated with the Bloomsbury group. Among the people she met was novelist D. H. Lawrence, and it was at his invitation that she moved to Taos, New Mexico in 1924. She remained there for the rest of her life, becoming an American citizen in 1938. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Brett

Her work can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., in the Millicent Rogers Museum and the Harwood Museum of Art, both in Taos, at the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, New Mexico and in many private collections. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Brett

painting Framed: 49 3/4 × 41 1/2 × 3 in. (126.4 × 105.4 × 7.6 cm)
Death Cartc. 1931-35Patrociño Barela
Patrociño Barela United States (1902 - 1964)
Patrociño Barela worked most of his life as a wood carver in Taos, New Mexico. As a santero (an artist who creates sacred images), Barela is recognized by New Mexico's living artists as a major source of inspiration. His carvings are not only expressive of the rich Hispano heritage within which he created, but artistically his works display parallels to Romanesque art, Modern art, as well as to the primitive art of other world cultures. http://www.laplaza.org/art/barela/
sculpture 40 9/16 × 32 5/16 × 44 in. (103 × 82 × 111.8 cm)
Decoration Dayc.1940Barbara Latham
Barbara Latham United States (1896 - 1989)
“I had lived under the brilliant western sky all summer, but I had never experienced such brilliance, contrasted with such fragrant desert. … I loved Taos from the moment I stepped off the train.” "I’ve been very happy here." "And I’m still having fun with my art."

Known as an accomplished painter, printmaker, and children’s book illustrator, Barbara Latham had idea of her life’s creative trajectory from an early age. At eight years old Barbara Latham won a scholarship to attend a weekend drawing class, and it sparked the young girl’s innate love of art. Shortly after high school, Latham began her more serious artistic studies at the Norwich Academy and Pratt Institute in New York City, as well as summer workshops with Anderw Dasburg at the Students League Summer School in Woodstock, New York. After a corporate stint on Madison Avenue making greeting cards, Latham relocated to the art colony of Taos, New Mexico.

It was in Taos that Latham would meet her eventual husband and fellow artist, Howard Cook. The two were introduced through Victor Higgins, and enjoyed a nurturing partnership spanning more than fifty years. The two traveled extensively through South America, Mexico, and Europe, largely the result of Cook’s Guggenheim Fellowship awards in 1932, and again in 1934. It was from these new, exotic vistas that the couple gathered unfamiliar subject matter and expanded their techniques. Much of what went into Latham’s first children’s book, “Pedro, Nina, and Perrito,” was cultivated during these travels.

In 1938, Latham and her husband purchased a home in Talpa, New Mexico. It was to become the base for a prolific artistic output, featuring everything from playful community scenes to wildlife, and landscapes in her signature stop-action style. Some of Latham’s most notable works include: “View from Our House in Talpa,” “Decoration Day,” “Tourist Town, Taos,” “Getting Ready for the Rabbit Hunt,” and “Rio Grande in the Spring.”

In 1967 the couple lived seasonally in Roswell, New Mexico, after Cook was awarded with the first artist-in-residence at the newly conceived Roswell Museum. By 1976, Howard Cook’s health was failing to the point where the couple relocated once more to a retirement home in Santa Fe. After her husband’s passing in 1980, Latham continued to travel and paint until her own passing in 1989.

https://sites.google.com/site/parsonsartists/home/barbara-latham
painting 24 x 29 15/16 in. (61 x 76 cm) Framed: 29 1/4 × 35 1/4 × 1 1/4 in. (74.3 × 89.5 × 3.2 cm)
Elements of Spring: The Rains1952Clay Spohn
Clay Spohn (1898-1977)
CLAY SPOHN (1898-1977), moved to Taos in 1951.

I do not believe in anything which restrains, limits or suppresses the spirit of man, or the spirit of his works, nor which binds his art to any conventionality of idea, theory, or method, or to conscientious and self-conscious description, or to that which would otherwise jeopardize the discovery of new experiences and awarenesses.

—Clay Spohn, 1953

Clay Spohn attended art schools in the Bay Area, New York City, and Paris, and exhibited regularly on the West Coast from the late 1920s. As a teacher at the progressive California School of Fine Arts, he promoted no particular “brand” of art but stressed the use of imagination. By the time he moved to Taos in the spring of 1951, Spohn’s work could be seen as a part of the broad category of abstract expressionism, although he repudiated the label. Spohn rejected the notion that the avant-garde painting of the New York School was radical enough to be absolutely unique and unrelated to preceding styles—a view held by some in Taos as well as in New York. He was a serious dissenter but also erratic; no doubt part of his charm derived from a certain contrariness—doing the unexpected and defying convention, sometimes merely to amuse his friends.

Spohn was clear about his work. In 1961, he explained his intentions to Taos Stables Gallery director Leone Kahl:

The whole statement lies purely in the physical aspect of the painting itself. The only subject matter intended is made up of the color involvements and interrelationships, together with paint texture and manner of brush strokes and other qualities, so arranged—it is hoped—to create a dramatic situation of these elements as an honest response to the artist’s experience of living. No literal meaning is intended or implied, but rather only feeling—meaning as a subjective and objective response. Any literal meaning the observer might interject or read into it is of the observer's own invention and choosing and not consciously or deliberately intended by the artist.

Spohn always spoke of his paintings in the present tense, as if they were underway at that very moment. He often worked on paintings for extended periods; he may have had trouble completing them to his satisfaction. (As late as 1971 he expressed his desire to rework a small group of his 1926 Paris abstractions.) His continuing concern was to create deep spatial relationships. He avoided single focal points and created fields of activity with open boundaries. In his paintings, no area is trapped or prevented from interacting with others. Vortices of forms pull the eye into places which seem far off. Spohn lived for the excitement of the artistic chase, as if for the sensation of constant movement. For him, there was not enough time to form lingering relationships with fixed styles.

Edited excerpt from David L. Witt, Taos Moderns: Art of the New (1992)
painting Overall: 27 15/16 x 32 5/16 in. (71 x 82 cm)
From The Elements1979Robert C. Ellis
Robert C. Ellis United States (1923-1979)
Born in Jackson, Texas, R.C. Ellis first began studying art through The University of New Mexico, Taos Summer Field School in 1942, where he met Andrew Dasburg whom he admired greatly. Ellis would have moved to Taos earlier if it had not been for WWII, and his service through the Coast Guard. After the war he returned to studying art at the New School of Social Research in New York in 1949, where he studied Abraham Rattner and Adja Yunkers (later one of the Albuquerque moderns). He would return to New Mexico the following year to study at the University of New Mexico and eventually obtaining his BFA in 1950. Most importantly to Ellis, between 1947 and 1953, he lived intermittently with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Sierra Madre whose art he greatly admired. His ties to Mexico, which were as strong as those he felt for the Southwest, became even stronger with his 1957 marriage to Rosamaria Ramirez de Alba, a Mexican citizen. He was the only artist among the Taos Moderns to pursue his career in two countries showing his work on both sides of the border. He returned to Taos in 1961 as a resident of the Wurlitzer Foundation and again briefly in 1964, before finally settling in Taos in 1965.
His paintings from the 1940’s onward moved through Cubist and Abstract Expressionist influenced periods. In the 1950’s his interest in the nature of luminosity led him to try for a kind of stained glass effect. In later works he mosved to a more minimalist – type artwork in both his painting and print making.

His first solo exhibition was at Gump’s Gallery in San Francisco California in 1942 and from there is work was exhibited in Washington D.C., Tucson Arizona, Santa Fe NM, Albuquerque NM, Linsborg KS, Amarillo TX, The Panhandle Museum in Carson County TX, The Ellen Noel Art Museum of the Permain Basin, Odessa TX, and at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. He exhibited internationally in several galleried in Mexico, as well as at the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno in Mexico City in 1964.

Ellis applied what he saw in the landscape, interpreting the lessons garnedred from his observations to create his compositions. Particularly by the time of his late work, he captured in paint, ink and other mediums the paradox of the desert, a surface that at first appears simple, but only because it’s true complexity is so well integrated into a flow of light and form. R.C. Ellis died in Albuquerque New Mexico in 1979.

Artist Biography.2015.203 Fine Art http://www.203fineart.com/Robert_C_Ellis.html
print Overall: 22 1/16 x 30 in. (56 x 76.2 cm)
From the Seas that are Southn.d.Wolcott Ely
Wolcott Ely (1923-2004)
painting Overall: 24 x 32 in. (61 x 81.3 cm) Framed: 29 x 37 in. (73.7 x 94 cm)
Grasses1950B.J.O. Nordfeldt
B.J.O. Nordfeldt (1878-1955)
painting Overall: 48 x 64 1/2 in. (121.9 x 163.8 cm) Framed: 56 5/8 x 42 3/4 in. (143.8 x 108.6 cm)
Harwood House1918Gustave Baumann
Gustave Baumann German (1881-1971)
Gustave Baumann was born in Magdeburg, Germany, in 1881. Ten years later, along with his family, Baumann relocated to the United States, eventually settling in Chicago. Displaying a natural aptitude for the arts, he worked as a commercial engraver while putting himself through night school at the Art Institute of Chicago - before returning to Germany in 1904 to study wood block printing at the Kunstgewerbeschule ("School of Arts and Crafts") in Munich. Upon his return to the United States, Baumann received international acclaim when one of his color woodcuts won the gold medal at the Pan-Pacific International Exhibition (1915) in San Francisco. Three years later, in 1918, Baumann settled in Santa Fe, quickly emerging as a leading artistic figure of the American Southwest. He is generally credited with the revival of color wood block printing in the 20th century, and was hand-picked as Area Coordinator for the Works Progress Administration's Public Works of Art Project in the 1930's. http://www.gustavebaumann.net/Gustave_Baumann_Biography_Page.htm
drawing Overall: 10 5/8 x 9 13/16 in. (27 x 25 cm)