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Oscar Berninghaus (1874-1952)
A charter member of the Taos Society of Artists, Oscar Berninghaus was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1874. At 16 he quit school to apprentice with a lithography firm where he learned all aspects of commercial illustration, tools that he would employ at some levels for the rest of his life.
In 1899, while taking night classes at the School of Fine Arts in St. Louis, Berninghaus was awarded a commission to sketch the west for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. It was on this trip the he was introduced to the American west, and Taos specifically, to which he took a 25 mile stage coach ride to find. For the next 2 decades Berninghaus would spend increasingly larger blocks of time in Taos each year, ultimately settling in the town full-time in 1925.
In part due to a lack of any gallery space in Taos, it was 1915 that the Taos Society of Artists was founded as a tool for Berninghaus and his peers to exhibit and promote their works.
Oscar Berninghaus eschewed innovations and modernism in his art, as well as embellishment in his straight-forward depictions of the Pueblo people. His respect for the traditions and people he depicted dictated that his canvases would be void of any over romanticizing.
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