A few weeks ago my husband, Len and I were in Taos for a friend's wedding. One morning we walked around town and went into the La Fonda Hotel right on the main plaza. There has been a hotel at this location since 1820. In the lobby, I fell in love with the painting below by the Hungarian born artist, Emil Bisttram.
Bisttram was born in 1895 and his family immigrated to New York City when he was 11. He studied at the National Academy of Art & Design, Parsons and the Art Student's League.
His first visit to Taos lead with frustrations. He wrote, "Whenever I tried to paint what was before me, I was frustrated by the grandeur of the scenery and the limitless space. Above all a strange, almost mystic quality of light." Being a photographer, I can totally identify with that statement. When I am in San Miguel de Allende, I find the lighting mystical and enchanting, especially early morning and late afternoon.
He returned to New York and that very next year, he won a Guggenheim fellowship to study mural painting. He traveled to Mexico where he studied under the world famous muralist, Diego Rivera. Diego Rivera was part of the Mexican Muralist Movement that started in the 1920's along with Jose Orozco and David Siqueiros. You can find a striking mural by Siqueiros at the Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende.The colors and composition of the Top of The Hill (circa 1940-50) are spectacular.
After his studies came to an end with Rivera, Bisttram returned to Taos and founded the Taos School of Art.
He became heavily influenced by painter Wassily Kandinsky which is evident in The Chief above with its bright colors and abstract forms. Bisttram became one of the southwest's leading painters and teachers. He had done so much for the artistic growth of New Mexico, in 1975 April 7th was declared "Emil Bisttram Day."