Museum of New Mexico Media Center Press Release

Southwestern Allure:The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony

New Mexico Museum of Art

March 28, 2014


(Santa Fe, March 28, 2014)—Southwestern Allure:The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony explores the development of Santa Fe as a haven for artists beginning in the early 20th century through the late 1930s.

The exhibition opens at the New Mexico Museum of Art April 25, 2014 and is on view through July 27, 2014.

Southwestern Allure celebrates the dynamic art scene that developed here in Santa Fe in the early 20th century as part of the explosion of artistic activity taking place in Northern New Mexico.  The origins of the New Mexico Museum of Art and these early 20th century art colonies are inextricably linked.

Distinguished by its deep historic roots and remoteness from the mainstream, Santa Fe was especially appealing to artists and writers seeking freedom and inspiration. The formation of the Santa Fe art colony was fueled by a core group of artists who began to arrive in the early 1900s for New Mexico’s singular desert landscape, a variety of cultural influences, inexpensive living, and beneficial environment. Artists were drawn to the region to visit, recover from health issues, and to paint. Some artists visited briefly but others established themselves in Santa Fe helping to create a sense of artistic community, as well as an enduring aesthetic still apparent in the work of many contemporary artists.

The works displayed in Southwestern Allure highlight the diverse painting styles of the Santa Fe artists, from realism to the edge of abstraction. Their choice of subject matter was driven by the environment and focused on the people and the land. Works by George Bellows, Andrew Dasburg, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Will Shuster, John Sloan, and Cady Wells, among others, are featured.

The exhibition concludes around 1938, which marks the founding of the Transcendental Painting Group, when a new phase of artistic production began that prescribed to a more avant-garde modernism that fully embraced abstraction.

Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett’s mission when founding director of the Museum of New Mexico was to position Santa Fe as a center where art and culture could thrive.  The Museum of New Mexico was created in 1909 in the Palace of the Governors. While not devoted to fine art, the museum offered studio space to artists and supported their work through an active exhibition program. By 1916 the museum had assumed a central role within Santa Fe’s cultural community, and it became apparent that a new facility dedicated solely to exhibiting fine art was needed.

The Art Gallery of the Museum of New Mexico (now the New Mexico Museum of Art) was born of a creative union between museum director and archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett and artist Robert Henri. In the spring of 1916, work began on the new building. Henri lent his expertise in establishing the institutional mission, philosophy, programming, and look of the new galleries, and organized the museum’s inaugural exhibition in November 1917.

New Mexico Museum of Art director Mary Kershaw said, “Of the nearly 150 works exhibited in the museum’s first show, 20 found their way into our collection and form the core of the museum’s historic Southwestern art holdings.  The combination of honoring the deep cultural roots of the Southwest, fostering the creativity of working artists, and looking to the future with confidence and enthusiasm continues to inform the museum’s mission as we approach our Centennial in 2017.”

Southwestern Allure: The Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony is curated by Dr. Valerie Ann Leeds and organized by the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

Media Contacts

Steve Cantrell, PR Manager



Merry Scully, Head of Curatorial Affairs



The New Mexico Museum of Art is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Museum exhibitions and programs supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its Director’s Leadership Fund, Exhibitions Development Fund, and Fund for Museum Education.



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