New Mexico Art Tells its History

The Rabbit Hunter

The Rabbit Hunter, circa 1945
Oscar Berninghaus (American, 1874 - 1952)
oil on canvas, 34 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. (87.6 x 100.3 cm)
Gift of John A. and Margaret Hill in memory of Maurice N. Mikesell, 1975

Oscar Berninghaus was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri where he developed an interest in art through his family's lithography business. Though his early work was in both the applied and commercial arts, it was easel painting and the land and Pueblo people of New Mexico that finally dominated his career. In 1899, he traveled to the Southwest where the light and landscape of the region around Taos captivated him; he returned from St. Louis each summer until 1925, when he settled in Taos permanently. Berninghaus’ close relationship with the Pueblo Indians in the area was a crucial element of his success, as his friendship with the Indian community resulted in their permission to paint the dances and rituals they felt it was appropriate to reproduce. In 1915, Berninghaus became a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists whose aim was to market their artwork, as there were no galleries in Taos at the time. Their traveling shows were a great success, with exhibitions in major cities exciting interest in the exotic people and landscapes of New Mexico.


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