Organizations* : AWS
Born in Hungary, Emil James Bisttram studied at the National Academy of Design, Cooper Union and the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in Hew York City. He later became an instructor at the New York School.
In 1930, Bisttram visited Taos, New Mexico for the first time, but found he was blocked from painting by the “grandeur of the scenery and the limitless space.” Instead, he went to Mexico to study fresco painting with Diego Rivera, becoming influenced by the strong realism and sculptured surfaces.
One year later, Bisttram returned to Taos, and established the Taos School of Art. His work at the time remained realistic. For his 1932 portrait Indian Girl with Basket, he constructed elements of the composition in wood and clay for more perfect details. In the mid-1930’s, Bisttram painted under the WPA. By 1938 he was a founder of the Transcendental movement in New Mexico as he turned toward non-objectivity, where paintings were composed of universal, rather than physical, forms. Bisttram did not limit himself to a non-objective style, however. He also painted realistic subjects.
Now known as a modern Taos painter, muralist and teacher, with murals in Taos, New Mexico, Texas and Washington DC, Bisttram was “still a vigorous artist” in 1974, two years before his death.
Reference: The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Peggy and Harold Samuels