New Mexico Art Tells its History

Hopi Snake Dance - Bisttram

Hopi Snake Dance, 1933
Emil Bisttram (American, born Hungary, 1895 - 1976)
oil on canvas, 40 1/2 x 44 1/2 in. (102.9 x 113 cm) (image)
Gift of Emil Bisttram, 1966

Emil Bisttram immigrated to New York City from Hungary with his family when he was 11 years old. A talented young artist, he supported himself working as a commercial artist while taking night courses at New York’s most prominent art schools. Bisttram first visited Taos during the summer of 1930, but returned to New York where he won a Guggenheim fellowship enabling him to travel to Mexico to study with the world famous muralist Diego Rivera. He returned to Taos in 1932, and founded the Taos School of Art, remaining as director for the rest of his life. Influenced by the work and philosophy of the painter Wassily Kandinsky, he began to experiment with abstract forms and bright colors in his paintings. In 1938 Bisttram, along with Raymond Johnson, founded the Transcendental Painting Group in Santa Fe, aspiring to bring painting beyond the appearance of the physical world. In 1952 he co-founded the Taos Art Association. 

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