Any student of the local art scene knows how painters Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein discovered Taos while on a painting excursion in 1898, and how their enthusiasm for this area became the foundation for what would later become known as the …
Any student of the local art scene knows how painters Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein discovered Taos while on a painting excursion in 1898, and how their enthusiasm for this area became the foundation for what would later become known as the Taos Society of Artists. What isn’t so well-known is how this discovery affected the lives of Blumenschein’s wife and daughter.
As part of this year’s Remarkable Women of Taos marketing theme, art scholar and author Elizabeth Cunningham will be delivering a lecture titled “Picturing Mary Greene Blumenschein and Helen Blumenschein” Sunday (April 15) at 2 p.m. at the Blumenschein Home & Museum, 222 Ledoux St. Admission is free.
“In a salon setting, this lecture will examine the career and life of the award-winning painter, illustrator and jewelry designer Mary Greene Blumenschein — the second American woman to win medals for her painting at the Paris salon — through examples of her work, and the artistic achievements and community activities of Mary’s daughter Helen Greene Blumenschein, who was also a Taos historian and amateur archeologist,” according to Cunningham.
Mary Shepard Greene (1869-1959) was born in New York City and began her art studies at an early age at the Adelphi Academy and the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, N.Y. “After her father’s death in the 1881, Mary and her mother (Mary Isabel Shepard Greene) moved to Paris in order for her to study art. She studied art in Europe for more than 15 years and achieved an international reputation,” Cunningham writes.
In 1905, she married Ernest L. Blumenschein (1874-1960) who at the time was a relatively unknown commercial illustrator. After Helen’s birth in 1909, Mary taught at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and continued to earn prizes and honors for her work. Helen Greene Blumenschein was the second child of the Blumenscheins. Their first child, Ethan Allen, lived only two days.
Cunningham writes that Ernest called Helen “Bill” and encouraged her to “hunt and fish, activities that she enjoyed late into her life.” Her mother, Mary, took over her education and together they lived in New York and Europe during Helen’s school years.
After graduation, she went to Europe for two years with her mother in 1929. Helen’s own artwork was exhibited in Europe and the United States from the 1930s. During World War II, Helen joined the WAAC and afterward came home to care for her parents.
Helen continued to paint, but in the 1950s she became interested in archaeology and in 1969 she received the New Mexico Archaeological Society’s Achievement Award for History and Archaeology in the Taos Valley.
In 1962 Helen gave the family’s home and furnishings as a gift to the community and the Kit Carson Foundation, now the Taos Historic Museums.
Cunningham, who hosts the blog titled “Mabel Dodge Luhan and the Remarkable Women of Taos” (http://mabeldodgeluhan.blogspot.com/), also authored the award-winning book, “In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein,” which has been called the definitive volume on this Taos art colony co-founder.
“Some years ago, I lectured on ‘Leading Ladies of Taos,’ ” Cunningham writes. “Fascinated by the remarkable women who founded cultural institutions in New Mexico, I researched the lives and contributions of Lucy Harwood, Mary and Helen Blumenschein, Helene Wurlitzer, Millicent Rogers and Mabel Dodge Luhan. As an extension of my research and writing pursuits, I am delighted to host ‘Mabel Dodge Luhan and the Remarkable Women of Taos.’ ”
For more information, call (575) 758-0505 or visit www.taoshistoricmuseums.org.
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