Organizations* : Taos SA
Bert Geer Phillips was born in Hudson, New York, but eventually moved to New York City, where he studied at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. In 1894, he journeyed to England and painted in the countryside before going on to Paris to enroll in the Julian Academy. There, he met his lifelong friend Ernest Blumenschein, and they returned to America and shared a studio in New York.
In 1898, Phillips traveled to New Mexico. He was initially drawn to Taos because his boyhood hero, Kit Carson, was buried there. However, he made up his mind to stay in Taos the first day of his visit. He lived and worked there for nearly sixty years, never tiring of what he described as “the romance of this great pure-aired land that makes the most lasting impression on my mind and heart.” Phillips was entranced with the stark, wild beauty of the region and determined to study the Pueblo people and their environment before it was forever altered. In fact, Phillips was instrumental in the creation of the Taos Forest Preserve, which headed off the destruction of much of the valuable timber around the Pueblo. In 1908, as a result of the artist’s efforts, the area was designated as the Carson National Forest.
Phillips became acquainted with many of the Pueblo’s people, from older warriors who had known Kit Carson to younger subjects who posed for him in forests or by the light of a fire inside a pueblo room. Indeed, the artist’s work as a forest ranger had been necessary because of the circumstances of eyestrain from painting in too many darkened rooms and flickering firelight. This may have influenced several of his dramatic compositions, with the contrasting tension of color and shadow. His work clearly reflects a romantic concept of the Pueblo, without becoming overly sentimental in feeling.
Reference: The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, edited by Dr. Rick Stewart