Taos Artists and Their Patrons

By Porter, Dean; Ebie, Teresa Hayes et al. | Southwest Art, January 2000 | Go to article overview

Taos Artists and Their Patrons


Porter, Dean, Ebie, Teresa Hayes, Campbell, Suzan, Southwest Art


The history of the Taos art colony has long been studied, but until now no one has taken a close look at the importance of patronage to its artists. Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950 reveals how patrons helped make Taos a successful market for artists. The exhibit is on view at the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona through March. The following is excerpted from the exhibit catalog, published in 1999 by the University of New Mexico Press.

The northern New Mexico village of Taos, shaped through the centuries by ancient Native American and Hispanic Catholic cultures, is an unusual setting for this study of American art patronage. Yet, above all, patronage is about relationships between artists and those who sponsor the creation of their work, celebrate its existence through exhibitions and critical notice, and acquire it. And in no place did such relationships between artists and their patrons play a more pivotal role in American artists' economic and creative survival during the first half of the 20th century than in this remote mountain community in the Land of Enchantment.

Why did artists go to Taos? What held them there? How did the artists of Taos attract patrons? How were the challenges of living and working in Taos different from those in New York or Chicago or St. Louis-or in other American art colonies-and how did Taos artists respond?

Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950 examines artists' age-old dilemmas: how to use every possible resource-of time, energy, and creative impulse-to make art and still manage to pay the bills. How to provide food, clothing, and a warm place to live and work, in most cases not only for themselves but also for their families. And how to fulfill the need, less frequently considered, for emotional support and encouragement: how to fuel the fires of creative passion, feed the spirit, and keep the faith during dark times. In the early years of the art colony, patronage in many guises offered solutions to these dilemmas, making it possible for artists to live and work in Taos.

The American Heritage Dictionary describes a patron as "anyone who supports, protects, or champions; [a] benefactor." As our concept for Taos Artists and Their Patrons developed, the authors took this definition to heart, stretching and even redefining the traditional notion of art patronage to encompass not only monetary support through purchases and commissions but also to include those who fostered-and rewarded-the artists' creative efforts in other, less tangible ways. …

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