German-American painters Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings met in Chicago as young artists, trained together in Munich, and were both drawn to Taos, New Mexico, by their desire to create distinctively American art. Yet the two couldn’t have been more different in personality, and their contrasting temperaments are visible in their respective styles. A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings showcases the overlapping yet distinct creative journeys of these two artists and friends.
“Ufer was outspoken and cantankerous,” said Thomas Brent Smith, Director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art and curator of western American art at the DAM. “His work was in-your-face and combative. Because he painted alla prima, using wet on wet paint, you can really see the energy and immediacy of the paint on the canvas.”
Hennings was the opposite, according to Smith.
“Hennings was described as meek, shying away from self-promotion,” he said. “He was contemplative and quiet; his paintings were calculated and perfectly planned. His training in the jugendstil style (the German version of art nouveau) inspired the elegantly curved lines and ornamental foliage that were so well suited to the Taos landscape.”
A Place in the Sun aims to give each artist his own moment in the spotlight, beginning with Ufer’s first visits to Taos in 1914, coinciding with the beginning of World War I, and his peak work between 1917 and 1923.
The exhibition also features Hennings' works from 1917–1935 and concludes with his works from 1945, at the end of World War II. Though their styles were different, both artists focused on Native American and Hispanic subjects. The 38 paintings in this exhibition reflect not only the personalities, training, and interests of the artists, but also the natural beauty and rich culture of the region.
“Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings, though well known to those versed in western art, have been overlooked in the past because of their focus on western subjects,” said Smith. “As this exhibition shows, however, Ufer and Hennings’ bold explorations of the American Southwest put them firmly in the mainstream canon as two of the best American painters of their time.”