Under the Sangre de Cristos

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Under the Sangre de Cristos
Under the Sangre de Cristos
Artist: Berninghaus, OscarDate of Birth: 1874-1952
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 25 x 30 inches
Signed: Signed lower left and dated 44

Oscar Berninghaus, a St. Louis native, was already known for his expert draftsmanship when the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company commissioned him to do the artwork for series of advertising lithographs based on scenes from the settlement of the West. Because of this commission, the artist’s reputation and interest in painting the American West soared. On his very first Western journey, a chance encounter and a broken wagon wheel—so legend has it—led him to Taos. The light and color there, and the ways of life of the indigenous Pueblo Indians filled his senses. Berninghaus would eventually make Taos his home and become one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists.
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains get their name from the red of the setting sun when it tints the snow-capped peaks. In Under the Sangre de Cristos, by contrast, the mountains are a hazy bluish purple under an all but cloudless blue sky. Where other works by the artist—as well as works by other Taos painters—see the mountains as fierce giants, Berninghaus interprets nature here on a human, benign scale. The pasture land in the middle distance, green with short grasses and sage is a kind of Garden of Eden, or Shangri-la, enfolded and hidden, protected by the mountains. The riders, in such a place, are themselves removed from history. These, of course, are interpretations rather than assertions of truth, yet despite the picturesque purity of his paintings, Berninghaus was keenly aware of the fragility of Taos of the need to preserve and protect the people and the land.
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