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Andrew Dasburg

 (1887 - 1979)
Andrew Michael Dasburg was active/lived in New York, New Mexico / France.  Andrew Dasburg is known for modernist landscape, portrait and still-life painting.

Andrew Dasburg

Biography from the Archives of askART

Born in Paris, France, Andrew Dasburg became a pioneer of American modernism.  He was a master teacher at Woodstock, New York where, with Konrad Cramer, he rebelled against the traditional and sensitive approach to landscape of John Fabian Carlson and Birge Harrison.  He married Grace Mott Johnson, an artist, in 1909, and in 1918, he began summer trips to Taos, New Mexico at the invitation of Mabel Dodge Luhan.  He settled there in 1930.

In New York, he studied at the Art Students League with Kenyon Cox and Birge Harrison, whose tonalist style he countered by helping to form a Fauve group called the Sunflower Club, dedicated to using bright colors.  He then went to France.  He exhibited in the Armory Show of 1913 and is associated with American Synchromist painters of that time, having shared a house at Woodstock with Synchromist leader Morgan Russell.

Dasburg was a proponent of Cezanne and criticized by Taos Artists for being too closely associated with that artist.  Dasburg is credited with being a major factor in bringing Taos artists art to the attention of the general public.

Peter Hastings Falk (Editor), Who Was Who in American Art

Andrew Dasburg was born in France in 1887, raised in Germany and came to the United States with his mother in 1892.  Dasburg trained at the Art Students League in New York with Kenyon Cox and DuMond, and privately in Woodstock with Birge Harrison.

In 1908 he visited Paris, where he saw the work of Matisse, Picasso, and Cezanne, to name only a few modern masters whose work was exhibited there in the early twentieth century.

Dasburg was invited to Matisse's studio through his friend Morgan Russell, who was studying with Matisse in Paris.  He enjoyed the privilege of seeing the artist at work and viewed his studies, line drawings, and completed canvases.  Dasburg learned the mastery of contour lines of a figure from Matisse.  From the study of Cezane's work, young Andrew Dasburg learned to apply the fundamentals of cubism to his personal vision of the American scene.

Dasburg returned to America in 1908, bringing with him his new European ideas, applying the ideals of Cezanne and Cubism to his work.  In 1917 Dasburg visited New Mexico at the urging of Maurice Sterne.  In 1923, Dasburg became one of the leading proponents of Cubism.  He finally settled in Taos in 1930 producing powerful Western landscapes.  His ideas where initially a shock wave for New Mexico artists. Dasburg believed: "The objects and occurrences of natural phenomena are not art For not appearances, but causations the underlying geometric mechanism is the guiding principle on which [the artist] builds." Dasburg's ideas would influence his peers and even some of the older Taos group.

In the 1930s artists throughout the United States completed murals, easel paintings, and prints as part of the Works Progress Administration program. In 1935 he worked on a commission for a series of murals for the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. When Dasburg celebrated his 90th birthday in Taos in May 1977, he had been painting there for 60 years.

Thomas Nygard Gallery

Biography from The Owings Gallery
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 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. He also emphasized the importance of a well-defined substructure. This concept while certainly not new, was challenging for Dasburg.

Henri encouraged him to pay particular attention to establishing a clear sense of weight and mass for the forms in his pictures. This became one of Dasburg's major aims. He believed, like Spinoza, that God proclaimed the logic of all things in the harmonies of nature. Like Einstein, whom he greatly admired, Dasburg felt that God created structures in nature in simple rather than complex formulas. These views shaped much of his art.

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."

Dasburg would be the first to say that his life as an artist can be divided neatly into two parts: before and after the day he encountered Cézanne's work in Paris in 1910. Until he discovered Cézanne, Dasburg was slowly finding his way as an artist under the guidance of provincial American mentors. Only a few months after seeing and absorbing the lessons of Cézanne, he had adjusted his style to conform to his hero's concepts of pictorial form and space. Like Picasso, who read in Cézanne's work the same message Dasburg did, the American painter felt that he could make Cézanne's art indelibly his own while retaining the master's sense of dynamism and feeling of mass and solidity.

When Dasburg returned to the U.S. in 1910 he went to Woodstock to live and work. The stimuli bombarding him at this time led him to new intellectual formulations that he was eager to spread among his colleagues. Having discovered Cézanne and Cubism, he understood at once how together they could serve as the model for the future development of his art and modern art in general. 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.

Dasburg was not impressed by the American works shown in the exhibit. He was however, deeply moved by the works of Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Kandinsky. By the end of fall 1913 Dasburg was painting pictures that were close to pure abstraction. His flirtation with abstract art lasted for less than three years. By 1916, he had developed his mature style out of an amalgam of what he had learned about managing abstract shapes from Cubism with a strong underpinning of Cézanne. Now he returned to recognizable subjects, with nature as a starting point. Forms were simplified but recognizable and stated in geometric terms.

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. 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.

Cézanne's way of painting Provence in southern France remained Dasburg's model. The path he had begun to follow in 1918 may be said to have arrived at its destination in 1926 and 1927, by which time Dasburg had reached a high level of prominence as an artist and as an exponent of modern directions in art. He painted mostly landscapes, still-life compositions, and a few portraits. Subjects were usually placed so that light raked across them, causing the shapes to stand out in relief. In this way, shadows became interesting as semi-abstract forms that complemented the fully illuminated areas. Details were abbreviated. The mosaic quality of the pictures of this period makes us especially aware of the underlying geometry.

In the 1930s he looked with fresh eyes upon the local scene and based his pictures on an interweaving of block-like forms and calligraphic lines. He began working with watercolors in 1933, a fluid medium, which allowed Dasburg to develop a new and entirely different landscape vision. The dominant forms in his new landscapes were clusters of sweeping curved lines or bent bands of watercolor pigment. During the mid-thirties Dasburg's health began to fail.

By 1927 he was diagnosed with Addison's disease, and until he began receiving a newly developed treatment in 1943, the illness brought his artistic production to a standstill. In the late 1940s and early 1950s Dasburg had a period of depression. His health was not good and he was producing very little except ink drawings. Dasburg was revitalized in the 1950s, encouraged by the sale of his works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum in New York City.

During the fifties and particularly the sixties Dasburg often used pastels. The colors in some of these pictures were dictated by the seasons. Especially strong are some bright yellow and rust red pictures done during the fall. Often Dasburg would use a sharpened charcoal stick to emphasize a linear break between two colors or two forms. The result is a flattened and condensed sense of space. Using these new materials and new ideas energized Dasburg as well as his pictures.

In 1975, at the age of eighty-eight Dasburg began a series of lithographs. Reaffirmed for Dasburg in this new medium was his subordination of nature's details to a measured pictorial experience. The prints were such as success that the following year he completed another series.

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.

Biography from Questroyal Fine Art, LLC
Andrew Dasburg was born in Paris in 1887, and at the age of five moved to New York with his mother. Having suffered a debilitating hip injury that left him permanently disabled, Dasburg was required to attend a school for crippled children. Dasburg's art teacher recognized his potential as an artist and brought him to morning classes at the Art Students League where he studied painting under Kenyon Cox. Later he took classes with Robert Henri at the New York School of Art. In 1906, he spent his first summer painting landscapes near Woodstock, New York under the auspices of the Art Students League landscape painting scholarship. He was taught by Birge Harrison who instructed students in techniques for rendering romantic landscapes. Dasburg resisted the lyrical style of his instructor, instead favoring a more progressive approach to art-making.

Dasburg traveled to Europe in 1909 where he was introduced to the foremost figures in early twentieth century modernism, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and visited an exhibition of work by Paul Cézanne at Vollard's gallery in Paris. The trip would prove critical in the development of Dasburg's oeuvre which shows a consistent influence of Fauvism, Cubism, and especially the paintings of Paul Cézanne. In 1910, he returned to the United States and for the next few years lived and worked in Woodstock. He spent his summers teaching, and in 1912 spent part of the summer painting on Monhegan Island, Maine with friend George Bellows.

Dasburg contributed three paintings and one sculpture to the Armory Show, an exhibition of leading modernists from Europe and the United States. The show greatly impacted Dasburg, inspiring him to pursue a greater degree of abstraction in his paintings. Working in close association with the painter Konrad Cramer, Dasburg produced a series of Kandinsky-esque paintings he called Improvisation which featured bold abstract forms that bore little resemblance to the natural scenes on which they were based. By 1916, his interest in near-complete abstraction had waned. Around this time, his mature style came into being wherein he merged Cubist and Cézanne-inspired abstractions with a more representational portrayal of his subjects.

Dasburg made his first trip to Taos, New Mexico in 1918 which kindled his life-long fascination with the native arts and the mountains, desert plains and villages of the region. Beginning in 1920, and for eight years thereafter, Dasburg spent part of his year in New Mexico drawing the local scenery. The rest of the year was spent in Woodstock creating paintings based on the New Mexico drawings. With the Southwest landscape as his muse, Dasburg's work became highly personal, conveying the artist's view of the essential power of nature. The Arts magazine featured Dasburg in a 1924 article which described his work from this era: "Dasburg's landscapes have the authenticity of the place embodied within them condensed as much as possible, and are to be numbered undoubtedly among his best pictures." Dasburg made New Mexico his permanent home in 1929.

The first retrospective of Dasburg's work was mounted at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1957. Regarded as one of the pre-eminent figures of the Taos community of artists, the governor of New Mexico honored Dasburg with a solo exhibition at Santa Fe's capitol building in 1975. Dasburg died in Talpa, New Mexico in 1979. A memorial exhibition, planned in advance of his death, was mounted at University of New Mexico, and over the course of two years traveled to several museums throughout the West.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery
Andrew Dasburg was one of the leading Modernists in New Mexico for sixty years. A student of Robert Henri, an acquaintance of Matisse and a contributor to the famous 1913 Armory Show, his artistic credentials are sterling and his following devoted. An opinionated and ambitious man, Dasburg made an impact on both American art in general and Southwestern art in particular.

Born in 1887 in Paris, Dasburg emigrated to America with his widowed mother in 1892, moving to Hell's Kitchen in New York City. In 1902, one of his teachers, sensing a real talent, brought him to the Art Students League and negotiated a scholarship for Dasburg there. He studied there until he felt constricted and moved to the New York School of Art, where he studied under Robert Henri, whose joyful refutation of enduring artistic principles was passed on to his young protégé.

1908-1910 were spent in Paris, where Dasburg came in contact with the great artists of the day, developing a particular affinity for Cezanne, who would serve as his guiding inspiration for the rest of his career. While in France, Dasburg had a chance to meet Matisse in his studio and watch him paint, and was impressed by his use of line and form to create pieces that had a stylistic flair without seeming forced or contrived. Impressed and inspired by the work of the leading European modernists, Dasburg returned to the United States, where he moved to Woodstock and lived with the leading artist of the American Synchromist movement, Morgan Russell.

Dasburg's work became quite abstracted after his arrival in Woodstock. By the time of the Armory Show, he was working in an almost totally abstracted style. The phase didn't last, however, and by 1916 his work had reached a sort of compromise between total abstraction and cubism that would define most of the rest of his career.

In 1918, Dasburg traveled to Taos for the first time. If he had harbored thoughts of further abstraction, they were obliterated by the New Mexico landscape, which dazzled him with its light, people and natural surroundings. Dasburg was one of the principle artists amongst the modernists working in New Mexico, and his style is oft-mirrored in the work of others. Blocks of bold color are held together by sinuous lines in a mildly cubist style. Dasburg worked in watercolor, pastel, oil and prints, often switching mediums when he was beset with an artistic block or a bout of depression.

Andrew Dasburg died in his home in Taos on August 13, 1979. He was ninety-two.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I
Andrew Michael Dasburg
Born: Paris, France 1887
Important contemporary Taos school painter, teacher

Raised in Germany, Dasburg came to the United States with his mother in 1892. He studied at the Art Students League with Kenyon Cox and DuMond, privately in Woodstock with Birge Harrison and at the New York School of Art with Henri. He studied in Paris in 1908, the same year as Benton, returning in 1911. "Young Andrew Dasburg abandoned the tepid manners he had learned from Kenyon Cox and soon painted a vase of tulips with the rugged force of Cezanne and reduced American trees and roof tops to their underlying shapes and colors." He exhibited three oils and a sculpture at the epochal 1913 Armory Show, acting as the butt of the critic Thomas Craven's dated denunciation, "What find old American families were represented! Bouche, Dasburg, Halpert, Kuniyoshi, Stell, Zorach—scions of our colonial aristocracy!" In 1923 Dasburg was one of the leading proponents of Cubism. From there, he progressed toward "pure" art, but later returned to a modified version of Cubism, finding "in the landscape of the Southwest an apt vehicle for his Cubist vision."

Dasburg had visited New Mexico in 1917 at the urging of Maurice Sterne, and finally settled in Taos in 1930. Applying Cezanne and Cubism to New Mexico produced both powerful Western landscapes and a shock wave for New Mexico artists. His new European ideas affected even the older Taos group, Higgins, Berninghaus, and Blumenschein. As an influence for pioneering modernism, for re-evaluating the same subjects originally painted by Couse and Ufer, Dasburg was of the greatest importance in New Mexico. In turn, Dasburg became less abstract.

Resource: SAMUELS' Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST, Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

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About  Andrew Dasburg

Born:  1887 - Paris, France
Died:   1979 - Taos, New Mexico
Known for:  modernist landscape, portrait and still-life painting