Lot 8

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OSCAR EDMOND BERNINGHAUS (American 1874-1952)
A Step Trail
Oil on board
Faintly signed lower right
9 inches x 13 inches
Estimate:  $8,000 - 12,000   € 7,360 - 11,040
Price Realized: $13,750.00

Note: This painting will be included in the Kodner Gallery research project on the artist

A founder of the Taos Society of Artists, Oscar Berninghaus (1874 – 1952) excelled at drawing animals and figures in contemporary garb in Southwestern landscapes. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri and developed an interest in art through his family's lithography business. He attended night classes at the St. Louis School of Fine Art. In 1898, he was on an illustration assignment for "McClure's" magazine, which took him for the first of many times into New Mexico and Arizona. He had heard of the special beauty of Taos and eventually settled there permanently in 1925.

The Denver and Rio Grand Railroad hired him to come west to sketch and produce watercolors of the mountain scenery, people, and villages in order to attract Easterners to their part of the country. He depicted Indians in a realistic, un-romanticized way, going about their lives as they actually did in twentieth-century New Mexico, as seen in the painting above. Berninghaus was beginning to realize that for him, the Indians of Taos Pueblo were great subjects. He viewed Indians as peaceful and productive people. He became a good friend to the Taos Indians and was one of the few white men allowed into the kivas of the Pueblo. He would learn their rituals and custom, but would paint only what the Indians thought proper. He felt a sense of history and wanted to preserve it accurately for future generations, and at the same time respect that which was sacred to them.

His style was one of short, quick brush strokes, which gave his work a unique texture. Early in his career, he painted on site, but later from memory, which was described as being extremely accurate. One of the reasons he was committed to the Taos Art Colony was that he believed it was a distinctly American art, something definitive of subject matter unique to this country.

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