von Hassler. “[Autumn Adobe, Sangre de Cristo],”
c. 1950. Oil
on artist’s board [Highlite Canvo Board]. Signed by
artist at bottom center: Von Hassler. Panel size: 18 x 24".
Frame size: 23 1/2 x 29 1/2". Written on verso: “Purchased
from artist 1955.” Gorgeous presentation in a
custom hand-made frame in 22K gold leaf (“American Impressionist”
style with adzed panel).
lovely autumn scene of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains by
the “Dean of the Albuquerque Art Colony,” this
original oil painting features the landscape of Trampas,
a small Hispanic village on the road to Taos where the artist
often painted. Carl von Hassler’s images describe
the character of northern New Mexico before the advent of
paved roads, and the present work is especially fine for
its evocation of the cottonwoods and aspen trees in fall
colors. Von Hassler spent more than 20 years developing
a new painting technique that caused a stir among his colleagues.
He discovered what he called an “atomic substance”
upon which he painted and which could withstand great heat.
This was important, as he baked the paintings at up to 600
degrees, a process that imparted a ceramic quality to his
colors and prevented them from fading. It also made the
paintings fire resistant. The technique is evident in the
work offered here and accounts for the painting’s
softly glowing, enamel-like quality.
in Germany of French and Dutch parents, Von Hassler (1887–1969)
came to New Mexico by an indirect but fascinating route.
He first studied painting at a naval academy in Kiel, where
he was free to travel for seven months of the year. He spent
these months studying art at the influential Düsseldorf
Academy and privately with Europe’s finest artists.
He made his first trip to the United States while he was
in the navy, often stating that he was inspired to visit
America when the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show came to his
hometown of Bremen in 1903. Von Hassler vividly recalled
his first acquaintance with the American cowboys, Indians,
and horses as the show disembarked in the harbor. His interest
in the American Southwest never diminished.
1909 the artist immigrated to the United States to study
in Greenwich Village, where he became a member of the Ash
Can School founded by Robert Henri. He fought for the American
cause during World War I, and after leaving the service
in 1922, he relocated to New Mexico. He worked briefly in
Santa Fe and then settled permanently in Albuquerque where
he married a Cherokee woman who established a fine artistic
reputation in her own right.
by the work of the Taos artist Ernest L. Blumenschein, Von
Hassler’s enthusiasm for New Mexico was infectious
and he soon became an important figure in the Albuquerque
art colony. His reputation as a landscape painter is based
on his realistic scenes of Albuquerque and Santa Fe landmarks,
but he painted as well throughout the Southwest and as far
west as Northern California. He also executed some significant
works of public art in Albuquerque. In 1924, he painted
a series of murals for the city’s Franciscan Hotel,
a building that has since been demolished. Three years later
he completed murals for the famous KiMo Theatre, a landmark
movie palace in the Pueblo Deco style.
Hassler’s hallmark nonetheless remained his treatment
of his beloved New Mexico landscape. Contemporary art critics
described him as a master of the natural beauty of the state
and one of the rare artists who could capture the simplicity
and humility of the area in rich plein-air paintings. He
was especially adept at reproducing the vibrant range of
colors that transform New Mexico villages during seasonal
changes, an excellent example of which is offered in the
present painting. These canvases typify his belief that
“nature is the greatest of teachers, and to be a truly
good artist one has to be a first-rate naturalist.”
Adobe, Sangre de Cristo exemplifies the artist’s
quintessential subject and his unique technique for depicting
the glories of the New Mexico landscape.
Refs.: David Clemmer, Serenading the Light: Painters of the Desert Southwest (2003).