Oscar Edmund Berninghaus

Artist Biography

Oscar Edmund Berninghaus was a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists and a leading painter of the American West. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, his family’s lithography business likely inspired Berninghaus’s early interest in art. Berninghaus attended night classes at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts while working for various printers and lithographers and later continued his studies at Washington University. In 1899, the Denver and Rio Grande Railway sent the artist on a trip west to depict the scenery along the trail. It was on this trip that the artist first visited Taos, New Mexico—a location that would become fundamental to his career. For many years, Berninghaus spent his winters at home in St. Louis working as a commercial artist and his summers in Taos painting the desert landscape, Pueblo people, and mountain life. In 1915, Berninghaus became a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, an organization which aimed to garner exposure for its members through traveling exhibitions. Berninghaus found a steady patron in the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, and he also painted several murals for the Federal Works Agency. In 1919, he bought an adobe house near Taos and by 1925, he had settled there permanently. His images of Puebloans are admired for their natural poses rather than stereotypical or nostalgic staging. Today, his work resides in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, and Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

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