About Andrew Dasburg
Andrew Dasburg has been called “the greatest draughtsman of landscape since Van Gogh.” (Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, April 17, 1966).
Born in Paris on May 4, 1887, young Andrew and his widowed mother emigrated to America in 1892, where Dasburg spent his childhood in the New York City neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. In 1902 one of his teachers, recognizing his gift for drawing, brought him to the nearby Art Students League and persuaded the school to accept him as a scholarship student. Of his instructors, Robert Henri was most inspirational to the young art student. Henri’s philosophy was to battle against tradition, and to consider every direction in art and life that led to truth.
In 1909 Dasburg traveled to France. His experiences there would forever change his path as an artist. While in Paris he had the opportunity to visit Matisse’s studio to watch him work. Dasburg vividly recalled the sight of the great master painting the early version of a group of dancers. He noted that Matisse’s line “had limpidity and casualness without being forced at all.” This experience gave the young artist an indelible lesson in how to invest form with the vitality of life itself without resorting to details. On another occasion, Dasburg discovered in a shop window some paintings that fascinated him. In his own words, “I came upon a small gallery where, in the window, were three or four paintings by Cézanne, whose name I had heard mentioned but knew nothing of… I was immediately impressed by the great plastic reality of the paintings… I looked for a long time. I was completely imbued with what I saw – one of those things that rarely come to one but when they do, they are forever memorable.”
When Dasburg returned to the U.S. in 1910 he went to Woodstock to live and work. Three years later, Dasburg exhibited his paintings at the now infamous Armory Show of 1913, which is often regarded as the single most important event in the history of American contemporary art.
In 1918, Dasburg was summoned to New Mexico by his good friend Mabel Dodge. The new environment Dasburg found stimulated him immensely. Living and traveling in the dramatic mountains and valleys of the country around Taos fortified Dasburg’s resolve to give up abstract art as an expressive vehicle.
Andrew Dasburg, Untitled (New Mexico Church, near Abiquiu), ca. 1922
Oil on canvas on board
13h x 16.25w in
33.02h x 41.28w cm
Under the influence of the southwestern landscape his pictorial language ripened. The elemental majesty and power of nature became the primary focus of his artistic expression. Pure form and color were subordinated to the task of measuring the land and people of New Mexico in pictorial terms quite different from, though related to, his abstract work.
Andrew Dasburg died peacefully on August 13, 1979 at his home in Taos. He will forever be recognized in twentieth-century American art history as one who heroically carried on the battle for modernism, primarily in New York in the early years of this century. He will also be remembered as an artist of great versatility, who brought new interpretations to the New Mexico landscape that are distinctive and lasting.