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 Arnold H. Ronnebeck  (1885 - 1947)

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Lived/Active: Colorado/New Mexico / France/Germany      Known for: modernist-leaning landscape-structure, portrait

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Ad Code: 3
Arnold H Ronnebeck
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Nassau, Germany, Arnold Ronnebeck became a noted sculptor and lithographer and was a strong advocate of modernist art. He traced his lineage back to nobility, and his father was a professor of architecture, a subject that the son studied for several years. Ronnebeck served in the German Guards in World War I and earned an Iron Cross for being wounded. He studied sculpture at the Royal Art School in Berlin and in Munich, and in 1908, moved to Paris where his teachers were Aristide Maillol and Emile Bourdelle. There he was a part of the avant-garde circle of Gertrude Stein, Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth.

In 1921, still recovering from war wounds, he visited the Italian coastal village of Positano and did landscape drawings from which he did his earliest prints. However, in that subject matter, he also had sculptural focus and described the scenery as "one enormous work of sculpture, houses and rocks seemingly one."

A year later, his fiancee Alice Miriam, a young American opera singer, died, and this tragedy combined with his family's increasing financial problems led him to emigrate to America. In 1923, he arrived in Washington DC and lived briefly with Miriam's family before moving to New York City. There he became a part of the avant-garde circle of creative people around Alfred Stieglitz. Ronnebeck's prints of the city skyscrapers reflected his fascination with the energy of that cosmopolitan atmosphere and also showed through his abstract, precisionist style his emotional responses to that environment.

It was at this time that he began to regard himself as a graphic artist, and working from photographs, he did pencil sketches that served as the basis for his lithographs. Several of his prints were reproduced in "Vanity Fair" magazine.

Through Stieglitz, Ronnebeck met Erhard Weyhe whose gallery had his first solo exhibition in May 1925. Composed of prints, drawings, and sculpture, the show had sixty pieces expressing subjects that had interested him for the last fifteen years.

That summer, Ronnebeck first went to Taos, where he was a guest of Mabel Dodge Luhan. He had been encouraged by Marsden Hartley to visit this artist's colony, and it was a life-changing experience relative to both his artistic and personal life. He was deeply impressed by the landscape and the native people, and he met his future wife, Louise Emerson (1901-1980) whom he married in New York in 1926. The couple returned to New Mexico through the late 20s and 1930s, and Ronnebeck completed a series of terra-cotta wall reliefs of Pueblo ceremonial dances for the public area of the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.

In 1926, the Ronnebecks settled in Denver, where he became Director of the Denver Art Museum. He resigned that position in 1930, but the couple remained in Colorado where both were active with WPA mural competitions. He also did numerous lithographs of landscapes and townscapes, especially mining towns, and his prints were distributed nationally by the American Artists Group.

By 1940, he was deeply discouraged by World War II, which brought back the painful memories of World War I, and his artistic productivity declined. He died in 1947 at age 62, having been very much a part of the art scene of early 20th century America. It is thought that removing himself from the East Coast to live in Colorado essentially removed him from the prominence in the art world that that mileau could have brought him.

Of his place in American art, Professor Betsy Fahlman wrote that Ronnebeck "exemplifies a fascinating international link, for his intersections with movements in New York, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Taos, Santa Fe and Denver. " (Works on Paper: Prints and Drawings).

Some of his portrait busts were in realist style and is exemplified in work he did in Nebraska, a result of friendship with artist Augustus Dunbier, whom he met in Taos. One of Ronnebeck's subjects was Dunbier's painting companion, Omahan Robert Gilder, whom he sculpted in 1925 while staying for two months at the home of Dunbier and his wife Augusta. While in Omaha that same year, Ronnebeck created a cemetery monument for the Mrs. Dunbier's family, the Mengedohts.

Following are excerpts from Omaha newspapers of interviews with Ronnebeck about his work and the fact that much of it was abstract: "In this fast-scurrying world where an elevator shoots us to the top of a twenty- story building in one minute, there is no time for detail." ("Omaha Daily News, 10/22/1925).

"America should be a leader in art just as it is a leader in invention and in activity during the mechanical age. . . .you have the pioneer spirit, and its wonderful atmosphere." (Omaha "Evening World Herald," 10/25/1925).

In a talk to the Professional Men's Club of Omaha in December, 1925, Ronnebeck expressed his views on modernist art and asserted that American art should not be controlled by the influence of classicism but should reflect the meaning the artist wished to convey:

"Unfortunately, a great number of people today believe that modern art in which the artist expresses his own feeling and vision, because it is different from the pictures of 50 years ago, comes straight to them from the lunatic asylum, while these same people will walk through modern New York without expressing much amazement. They will accept quietly progress in technique and science, and take them for granted, but if pictures do not look like those of 50 years ago, the artist must be crazy," the speaker declared. (Omaha "Evening World Herald", 12/8/1925).

Betsy Fahlman, "Arnold Ronnebeck and Alfred Stieglitz: Remembering the Hill," HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY, Vol 20, no. 4 (Winter 1996): 304-311.

Fahlman is also the source of the newspaper clippings of the above quotations and her essay in the book "Arnold Ronnebeck: Works on Paper" is the source of the information referenced in the biography.

Biography from William R Talbot Fine Art:
Initially trained as a sculptor at the Berlin Royal Art School, the German-born lithographer Arnold Rönnebeck (1885-1947) brought what can only be called a sculptural vigor to his landscape subjects in two dimensions.

In Paris, Rönnebeck studied with Aristide Maillol and became part of the avant-garde circle that included Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as Marsden Hartley. Rönnebeck moved to New York City in 1923, and at the behest of Hartley he entered the circle of artists and writers around Alfred Stieglitz. In this milieu, Rönnebeck became acquainted with Mabel Dodge Luhan, the wealthy New York City hostess extraordinaire who had moved her salon to Taos in 1918.

Rönnebeck first visited New Mexico in 1925. As with so many artists visiting Taos, Rönnebeck stayed with Mabel Dodge, now the doyenne of the Taos modernist colony. The visit changed both his professional and his personal life. He was deeply impressed by the landscape and the native people, and he met his future wife, Louise Emerson, whom he married in New York in 1926. Soon after, the couple moved to Denver where Rönnebeck became director of the Denver Art Museum, a position he held until 1930. The couple remained in Colorado, but periodically visited New Mexico, the landscape and villages of which inspired numerous Rönnebeck lithographs.

Works by Rönnebeck are part of numerous important art collections including the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Tate Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Whitney Museum in New York, the U.S. Library of Congress and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, and Yale University.

Ref.: Clinton Adams, Printmaking in New Mexico, 1880-1990 (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1991), pp. 40, 144, n. 22.

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Arnold Ronnebeck is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Taos Pre 1940

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