|Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Cross NM, 1929|
If it's summer the mountains, as he approaches, will be topped by a towering thunderhead - or an anvil of smoke from a mile-square forest fire. Winter snow usually covers the mountains from Christmas onwards, and on occasions the high plains are white too. Mostly, though, reddish-brown and ochre are the dominant colours, along with the muted greens of pinon, chamisa and sage - and dazzling blue sky.
|Northern New Mexico (heading south from Colorado)|
|Ernest L Blumenschein, Haystack, Taos Valley, 1927|
|John Sloan, Road to Santa Fe, 1924|
Artists came first to Taos, attracted by the extraordinary architecture of Taos Pueblo and the colourful culture of its inhabitants, as well as by the radiant light of Northern New Mexico. According to legend the painters Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips were travelling from Denver to Mexico in the summer of 1898, when a wheel broke on their carriage. As luck would have it they were only a few miles from Taos, and that's where they went for help. They went no further.
|Storm brewing over Northern NM|
John Sloan and Randall Davey were among the first to set up summer homes in the town, and you can still visit Davey's house (which is owned by the Audubon Society) and its beautiful mountain orchard. The paintings they exhibited (successfully) in New York encouraged others to visit New Mexico: Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove, John Marin and Andrew Dasburg. Some stayed in Santa Fe permanently, enduring the cold, hard winters when there were no tourists to buy pictures and virtually no other way to earn a living.
|Georgia O'Keeffe, Pedernal from the Ranch, 1956|
Of these the best-known were the Cinco Pintores, a loosely-affiliated group who established a colony on Camino del Monte Sol, just below the TB hospital. Known as 'the five little nuts in the five adobe huts', Jozef Bakos, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, Willard Nash and Will Shuster made the colony self-sustaining and permanent, with the glorious Museum of Fine Arts giving them a place to show (and sell) work.
|Pedernal, nr Abiquiu NM - O'Keeffe Country|
In May 1929 Georgia O'Keeffe visited New Mexico for the first time, and was immediately taken in hand by Mabel Dodge, who lent her a studio and a base from which to explore the surrounding country. O'Keeffe was already famous, both for her flower paintings and as a doyenne of the New York art scene; her husband Alfred Stieglitz was a mover and a shaker who helped her become one of the most prominent and highly-paid artists of her time.
|Georgia O'Keeffe, Rancho de Taos Church, 1934|
|Acequia Madre, Santa Fe, NM|
I've added a lecture on O'Keeffe and New Mexico to my list - please have a look at my Illustrated Lectures page.