Two painters, driven by their friendship and mutual passion for art, would help define American art in the 20th century. Both finding their homes in Taos, New Mexico, the story of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings takes center stage at the Denver Art Museum.
The tale behind two founding fathers of American Western painting, Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings, forms the center of an amazing exhibition at the Denver Art Museum. “A Place in the Sun” will open December 13 and chronologically explore the artists’ lives, artistic evolution, and lifelong friendship. Both artists established deep connections with New Mexico’s rich Native American and Hispanic cultures, which surfaced with frequency in their choice of subject matter. “Even though the artists painted similar subjects,” the museum writes, “their artistic styles truly differentiate their work. Ufer painted alla prima, in which layers of wet paint are applied to previous layers of wet paint. Hennings adopted the German style of art nouveau called jugendstil, which is inspired by curved lines and the natural forms in flowers, plants, and trees.”
Walter Ufer, “Going East,” 1917, oil on canvas, 51 x 51 in.
(c) Philbrook Museum of Art & Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 2015
As the first major exhibition of the two artists, the show is a must-see and sure to delight, especially Hennings’ “A Friendly Encounter,” circa 1922. Not only will the brilliant yellows found within the birch tree leaves impress the viewer, but at 40 x 50 inches, the size will, too. Located in the foreground and at the bottom right of the canvas, two Native American subjects converse while sitting on their horses. Just beyond the tree line, another figure on horseback trots through the shadow. Hennings’ jugendstil style really comes to the fore in “A Friendly Encounter,” as hardly a straight line exists in the piece. Despite the rather static subject, the painting ebbs and flows with movement, the eye excited by the plethora of organic, wavy lines.
“Going East” by Ufer is equally as stunning, but also displays the artist’s penchant for loose, expressive brushwork resulting from his alla prima technique. The main subject of the work, a female in the left foreground, displays a dazzling bright-blue cape that gracefully drapes over her head and shoulders. Closer inspection of the garment reveals an intricate –- almost impressionistic –- play between strokes of blue and green. This type of brushwork is repeated through the work, most notably in the blue sky and puffed clouds.
“A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer & E. Martin Hennings” will be on view through April 24.
To learn more, visit the Denver Art Museum.
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