THEODORE VAN SOELEN (1890–1964), "Adobe, Snow, and Sunshine," 1926, oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 40 in., Tia Collection, photo: James Hart, Santa

Private Art Collection On View >

New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West
Through January 2, 2022
National Cowboy Museum
Oklahoma City

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is the latest venue for the important touring exhibition “New Beginnings: An American Story of Romantics and Modernists in the West.”

This project uses superb artworks from the renowned, yet seldom seen, Tia Collection of Santa Fe to offer a fresh view of the evolution of art in New Mexico during the 20th century.

On view will be more than 100 works by 70 artists, including Oscar Berninghaus, Andrew Dasburg, Leon Gaspard, Victor Higgins, and Will Shuster. They reflect the early 20th-century shift from classicism and romanticism, with their evocations of narrative and idealized or realistic forms, toward varieties of modernism such as cubism and abstraction that prioritize geometric form or the emotion of color over verisimilitude.

Most date from the 1920s and ’30s, when artists flocked from all over the world to northern New Mexico, eager to escape the effects of industrialization and urban pollution, world war and revolution, the 1918 flu epidemic, and the Great Depression.

Though the vision of an unspoiled Eden that beckoned them did not always prove real, many found — as the project’s title suggests — new beginnings here.

Northern New Mexico has always been ideal for visual artists thanks to its wide-open spaces, angular mesas, vivid colors, clear air, and intense light. In the early 20th century, artists arriving from America’s East Coast or Europe also admired the interaction of Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American cultures they saw here; though far from perfect, the “live and let live” ethos of this region certainly trumped the all-out hostility many of the artists had witnessed during such catastrophes as World War I and the Russian Revolution.

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