PHOENIX, AZ.- Phoenix Art Museum
celebrates the career of one of the most successful American artists of the early 20th century with the opening of In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein. A founder of the famed Taos Society of Artists, Blumenschein rocketed into the spotlight with his modernist approach to capturing the American West. This major retrospective, on view March 15 through June 14, 2009, covers every aspect of the artist’s career and is the first Blumenschein exhibition in 30 years and the first in Arizona.
The exhibition follows Blumenschein’s life, tracking the artistic, social and political dimensions of his art. It features his major landscape and figural paintings of the Southwest, for which he is best known today, as well as early works from the beginning of his career when he worked in France and as a professional illustrator. As Blumenschein developed as an artist, he also formed a stance on social issues that included pictorial testimonials of the cultural identity of the native people of Taos and respect for their lands.
Blumenschein landed in Taos, New Mexico, as the result of a fortunate accident. He was traveling with fellow artist Bert G. Phillips on a sketching trip from Denver to northern Mexico when a wheel of their carriage broke, leaving them stranded in Taos Valley. The delay gave the artists time to take in the spectacular countryside and interesting cultures of the area. They decided to stay and work in the area, later founding the Taos Society of Artists to promote the splendor of Taos and the art of the American West to larger audiences.
Academically trained in New York and Paris, Blumenschein painted in a style that combined traditional and realistic means of expression with subtle undercurrents of modernism, particularly in his bold use of color and the manner in which he constructed his compositions. In addition to founding the Taos Society of Artists (1915-27), Blumenschein’s interests in modernism also led him to establish the New Mexico Painters (1923-27), one of the region’s earliest groups of modernist painters. At the height of his career, he was one of the few artists to have paintings purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.