One of our favorite aspects of New Mexico is the art, which is part of why we’re so excited to tell you more about Taos Pueblo painter, Albert Looking Elk!
Born around 1888, Albert Looking Elk initially started down an artistic pathway as a model for E. Irving Couse, one of the Taos Society of Artists founding members. He continued to model through his childhood and into adulthood, and his wife and children later also worked as models for artists. In 1900, he modeled for Oscar E. Berninghaus, another founding members of Taos Society of Artists. By 1915, after receiving a Christmas present of paints and brushes and painting lessons from Berninghaus, Looking Elk began his own art career
Albert Looking Elk & Artistic Beginnings
On July 16, 1918, the Taos Valley News said, “Taos has a native artist… Albert [Looking Elk] Martinez of the Pueblo… He has painted a number of pictures of merit, several of which he has been able to sell at a fair price.” Like other beginning artists, at first Looking Elk made just a few dollars on his paintings, but he was so successful that he soon purchased a Studebaker, making him the first Taos Pueblo tribal member to purchase an automobile.
Taos Pueblo Inspiration
Looking Elk’s primary source of inspiration and subjects were the Taos Pueblo. He featured the north building of the pueblo, often painting it from the village plaza. His works were realistic, as opposed to the romanticized compositions of the Taos Society of Artists. He was also influenced by the style of the Santa Fe Indian School, reflected in several of his works. Between 1923 and 1930 Looking Elk showed his work several times at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, earning an art award during his first showing. His use of light and color has helped to make his artwork successful; however, Looking Elk’s successful adoption of European painting techniques offended many Caucasian collectors and curators of the day.
Albert Looking Elk, Albert Lujan, and Juan Mirabal are the “Three Taos Pueblo” painters. As the Taos art colony grew, these men studied oil and water color painting and made works of art of their community, told from a Native American perspective. In 2003, the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos held an exhibition of their work “Three Pueblo Painters.”
Explore the Artistic Landscape
Want to explore the landscape that inspired artists like Albert Looking Elk? Click here to contact us today so we can plan your trip!