New Mexico Museum of Art

Picturing Passion: Artists Interpret the Penitente Brotherhood

November 19, 2019


(Santa Fe New Mexico) – As artists arrived in New Mexico over the course of the twentieth century, they encountered no shortage of inspirational material. From the striking landscape, and regional architecture to native ceremony, the Southwest often proved exotic for artists who came from a predominantly eastern, Protestant background. One regional community that captured the attention and imaginations of artists was the Penitente Brotherhood.

Picturing Passion brings together the works of artists including Gustave Baumann, Cady Wells, Marsden Hartley, William Penhallow Henderson, Willard Nash, Gene Kloss, Ansel Adams, Joseph Henry Sharp, Bert Geer Phillips, and Patrocino Barela, among many others who took on the penitent traditions as source material. The exhibition illustrates how artists who were new to the Southwest in the early part of the 20th century looked to Morada, Penitente processions, traditions, and materials as source materials for their work as distinctive features of New Mexican culture. The exhibition also examines the myths and stereotypes that have developed from sensationalizing the group’s beliefs and practices while endeavoring to create a space to address these misconceptions. A selection of work by contemporary santeros Raymond Lopez, George Lopez, Gustavo Victor Goler, Horacio Lopez, and Horacio Valdez illustrates the continued importance of the sacred in the penitente world view today.

This exhibition is not about the Penitente Brotherhood; it is about how the artists – most from outside the region – have interpreted this uniquely New Mexican phenomenon in their work. As with any interpretation, the artwork these individuals produced was colored by their own perceptions and backgrounds. This exhibition explores artists’ responses to and interpretations of their own experiences and ideas about the Penitent Brotherhood.


About the New Mexico Museum of Art

The New Mexico Museum of Art is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents. Programs and exhibits are supported by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its generous donors.

Founded in 1917 as the Art Gallery of the Museum of New Mexico, the New Mexico Museum of Art has been presenting innovative arts programming in downtown Santa Fe for more than a century.  At its founding, the museum collected and exhibited artworks by noted artists from New Mexico and elsewhere. This tradition continues today with a wide array of exhibitions and a significant collection featuring work from the world’s leading artists. Today, as at its founding, the Museum of Art strives to bring the art of New Mexico to the world and the art of the world to New Mexico. Museum exhibitions and programs are supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation Exhibitions Development Fund and the Fund for Museum Education. 

107 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico, just off the downtown Plaza in Santa Fe, NM 87501.   24 Hr. Recorded Message: (505) 476-5072; Front desk: (505) 476-5063 Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, May through October; closed Mondays November through April, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Events, news releases, and images about activities at New Mexico Museum of Art and other in divisions of the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at

Related Photos

Carreta de la Muerte
Holy Week in New Mexico
The Sacristan of Trampas
Penitentes - The Crucifixion
Penitente Good Friday
Penitente Procession at Truchas
New Mexico (Penitente)
Penitente Ceremony
Head of Santo (Head of Christ)
Penitente Procession (Study for Sangre de Cristo Mountains)

Back to Press Release List »