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Artist Life in Taos


This April, in connection with its collection display, Ateneum Art Museum will present a new FOKUS exhibition featuring works of art created in the Taos Art Colony in the USA by Akseli Gallen-Kallela and other artists.

FOKUS: Artist Life in Taos

Ateneum Art Museum's collections include seven paintings by Akseli Gallen-Kallela depicting landscapes and details of Taos. A new FOKUS exhibition entitled Artist Life in Taos will present these paintings, including four that are returning from the Finnish Embassy in Washington DC, where they have been on loan.

In addition, the exhibition will present five paintings by other members of the Taos Art Colony, including two by Sheldon Parsons, and one each by Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins and Fritz Scholder. These paintings are being loaned by the US Embassy in Helsinki.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Taos

In December 1923 Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931) travelled to the USA, where an exhibition of his art was on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Gallen-Kallela spent eight months in and around Chicago before moving in August 1924 to Taos, New Mexico, with his wife Mary and daughter Kirsti.

The Gallen-Kallela family rented a house from a wealthy New York society lady, Mabel Dodge Luhan, who had moved to Taos in 1916 and married Tony Luhan, a local Native American. Mabel Dodge Luhan had donated to the community a hospital and cared for the living conditions of Native Americans. In the 1920s and ‘30s Luhan invited a wide range of artists to stay as her guest. To accommodate them, she had six guest houses built around her home. The Gallen-Kallela family rented one of these. The house was situated on the site of a Native American reservation.

One of her guests was the author D. H. Lawrence, who was just departing for Mexico when Gallen-Kallela arrived in Taos. Lawrence and Gallen-Kallela became acquainted with each other. Lawrence later returned to the community to live in a ranch that had been donated by Mabel Dodge Luhan. In return, Lawrence gave Luhan the manuscript for his novel Sons and Lovers.

The Taos Art Colony had already attracted a hundred artists in 1917. Gallen-Kallela was attracted there indirectly by Victor Higgins (1884-1949), who had come to Taos already in 1914 and with whom Gallen-Kallela had become acquainted at his art exhibition in Chicago. Other artists whom Gallen-Kallela met in Taos included Walter Ufer (1876-1936) and Higgins' father-in-law Sheldon Parsons (1866-1943).

Other artists who stayed at the Taos Art Colony included the painter Georgia O'Keeffe, the photographer Ansel Adams and the author Willa Cather. The Taos Art Colony remains active to this day.

FOKUS exhibitions at Ateneum

Only a small selection of works in Ateneum Art Museum's collections can be displayed at any one time. The FOKUS series presents smaller thematic exhibitions that focus on a particular work of art, artist or subject.