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 Frank G. Applegate  (1882 - 1934)

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/New Jersey/Illinois / Mexico      Known for: mod figure-genre-Indian, and landscape painting

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Ad Code: 3
Frank G Applegate
from Auction House Records.
"Evening in the Pueblo"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Frank Applegate, an author, painter, potter and woodcarver, lived in Santa Fe for only a decade, but he had a profound impact on the city and the cultural region.  The things that make Santa Fe a "city different" today, such as the Pueblo Revival architecture, the intermingling of Spanish, Indian and Anglo cultures, and the celebration of art, are the very things Applegate admired and defended.

Books on American arts and crafts note his efforts to revive Spanish Colonial art, but make no mention of his own studio pottery or his work with Hopi potters.  Likewise, scholars who have read his books of southwestern folklore know nothing about his fine woodcarving.  Museum curators who admire his contributions to their collections of Indian pottery and Spanish Colonial art are often unaware of his devotion to Pueblo Revival architecture.

Applegate moved to New Mexico from Philadelphia in 1921.  In New Mexico, he exhibited his work more frequently than he had back East, due largely to the nurturing artistic atmosphere of Santa Fe and the open-door policy at the Santa Fe Museum of fine Arts.  His style evolved constantly during the decade he lived in Santa Fe, as he experimented with different forms, techniques and media.  While he devoted most of his talent and energy to painting, Applegate also tried his hand at etching, wood or linoleum block cutting, woodcarving, adobe sculpting and even religious art in the New Mexican Hispanic tradition.  Still, it is as a painter that he is best known today.

Although the paintings of the Santa Fe modernists, including Applegate, displayed abstract qualities, the majority of paintings made in the early 1920s were representational.  While it would be several years before Raymond Johnson became New Mexico's first well-known abstractionist, Applegate and the other modernist artists examined and focused on the geometric elements in nature, emphasizing them in their designs, as well as conveying their emotions toward the objects and scenes they painted.

Three of the Santa Fe artists whom Applegate first accompanied on sketching or painting trips, were B.J.O. Nordfeldt, Andrew Dasburg and Josef Bakos.  Like Applegate, the three were influenced by Paul Cezanne.

The artists living in Santa Fe in the early 1920s had limited contact with the better-known, more traditional ones residing in Taos.  Although several of the Taos Society's members, including Ernest Blumenschein and Victor Higgins, showed enthusiasm for the work of the Santa Fe modernists, the Taos Society collectively was known for its realistic, traditional, academic-style paintings.

On June 6, 1923, Applegate, Bakos, Gustave Baumann, Ernest Blumenschein, William Penhallow Henderson, Victor Higgins, Nordfeldt and Walter Ufer met at Nordfeldt's studio and organized the New Mexico Painters.  They exhibited their work in eastern and mid-western galleries and museums, as well as in the West and regularly at the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts.

By June 1924, five more artists had joined the New Mexico Painters---John Sloan, Randall Davey, Andrew Dasburg, Theodore Van Soelen and Walter Mruk.  They exhibited, in this year, at the San Diego Museum, Los Angeles County Museum and Art Institute of Chicago.

By the mid-1920s, Applegate abandoned oils almost entirely to devote himself to watercolors. He concentrated on landscapes, but also painted town and street scenes, Indian ceremonies and rural Hispanic villages.  His early watercolors are characterized by the use of dots for vegetation, serpentine strokes for hills and bold splashes of brushwork for the sky.  Later, his paintings took on a somewhat Oriental feeling, with more delicate, calligraphic brushwork, possibly inspired by Japanese prints he owned.

In this period more than any other, Applegate's paintings show a relationship to some of Cezanne's from the mid-to-late 1880s, especially the French artist's depictions of Mont Sainte-Victoire.

Throughout his career, Applegate's palette stayed in the dark range, with blues and greens offset by blocks of fiery rust. He often went over the darker colors in his watercolors with a wash to lighten their intensity. Brief touches of bright paint, sparely applied, draw the viewer's eye to some simply-executed detail, such as a tree, heels of a wagon, or field. People, burros and man-made objects were often a compilation of black geometric shapes, simply facets of the overall design. The resulting work is generally bold and direct, with an economical use of brushwork.

The New Mexico Painters last show together was in 1927.  Afterward, Applegate's paintings continued to appear in major shows, including the annual exhibition of watercolors in the spring of 1927 at the Art Institute of Chicago and a one-man show at the Denver Art Museum. In the last years of his life, Applegate's interests broadened to such an extent that he was forced to devote less time to painting, but he never abandoned it entirely.  The watercolors he painted during his last years reveal a dramatic shift in technique and vision.  The artist most responsible for this change was John Marin, who spent the summers of 1929 and 1930 in Taos.  Marin painted more than 100 watercolors during his residence in Taos, and his influence is apparent in the work of many New Mexico artists.

Applegate had been incorporating many of Marin's stylistic techniques in his work long before the latter arrived. But after seeing Marin's work, Applegate began to take his technique further. He adapted several of Marin's mannerisms, and his painting became freer and farther removed from representational art. His strokes became broader and more vivid; a storm, for example, was now a heavy, diagonal slash of paint. Colors were much bolder than in his earlier watercolors, which, for all their richness, look positively faded compared to the later ones.

Applegate often placed the landscape in the center of the canvas, with balanced white space serving as a Marinesque border or frame. He fractured images, enhancing their expressiveness. He switched from adobe-colored papers to a heavily textured, vivid white paper from which the colors jump out. His landscapes became stark and minimalistic, capturing nature's raw power in expressionistic strokes.

Applegate sent his paintings to exhibitions right up to the time of his death in February 1931.

Southwest Art, July 2001
Daria Labinksy and Stan Hieronymus, Frank Applegate of Santa Fe, Artist and Preservationist

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Atlanta, Illinois, Frank Applegate was an art teacher and accomplished sculptor and painter, doing many Indian subjects in New Mexico.

He was a student of Frank Forrest Frederick at the University of Illinois in 1906 and for two years of Charles Grafly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he also exhibited watercolors.  He had further study in Paris at the Julian Academy under Charles Verlet.

From 1908 to 1920, he taught and headed the department of sculpture, modeling and ceramics at the Trenton, New Jersey Industrial Art School.  He then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he gained much respect as a painter, sculptor, and ceramist.

He first made the trip to New Mexico in 1921 when he took his family to see the famous Santa Fe Fiesta.  He was so taken with the environment, that he moved there and became an adviser in matters related to Indian culture.  He asserted that Indian crafts and Penitente carvings should be treated as collector's items and not just curios. Ultimately he turned to painting to record Indian life.

He lived on Camino del Monte Sol among a line of pueblo huts inhabited by other artists who called themselves "Los Cinto Pintores."  Other members of that group were Fremont Ellis, Will Shuster, Walter Mruk, Josef Bakos, and Willard Nash.  Applegate was close to these men and also backed some of them financially.

He was an exhibiting member of the New Mexico Painters Society, and in 1929, wrote and illustrated Indian Stories from the Pueblos, subject matter with which he was familiar from working closely with the Hopi Indians of Arizona, with whom he developed a new formula for making pottery from the few remaining clay deposits.

Peggy and Harold Samuels, "The Illustratred Encyclopedia of the American West
Doris Dawdy, Artists of the American West

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
Frank G. Applegate
Born: Atlanta, Illinois 1882
Died: Santa Fe, New Mexico 1934

New Mexico painter after 1921, sculptor, ceramist

He was the pupil of Frank Forrest Frederick at the University of Illinois where he was educated in 1906.  He studied two years at the PAFA under Grafly and at the Julian Academy in Paris under Verlet.  He then taught sculpture, modeling, and ceramics at the Trenton (NJ) Industrial AS, 1908-20.

In 1921, Applegate came to Santa Fe, devoting himself to painting.  His house was on Camino del Monte Sol, in line with the adobe huts built by Los Cinto Pintores, Mruk, Bakos, Nash, Ellis, and Shuster.  He was "their close friend and sometime financial helper."  He became a member of the New Mexico Painters society in 1923, exhibiting extensively.

He wrote "Indian Stories from the Pueblos" in 1929.

Resource:  Peggy and Harold Samuels,  The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.

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