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2008 Catalog > 27. Leggett, Socorro Mission

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27. Lucille Leggett. “Socorro Mission,” n.d. (1940s). Oil on canvas panel, 12 x 16". Signed in l. l. corner. Paper label pasted on verso of frame: Art Center, El Paso, Texas. Frame size: 18 1/4 x 22 1/4". Fine.

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Not much is known at this time about the life and career of the southwestern regional artist Lucille Leggett (1896–1966). She was born in Tennessee and as a teenager moved to New Mexico in 1914. She married a railroad engineer and relocated to El Paso, Texas, where she studied art at a local college. She later became captivated by the desert landscape of New Mexico, especially the south-central mountains around Capitan, Carrizozo, and Ruidoso, which lay within a couple of hours’ driving distance of El Paso. In time, she gravitated north to Santa Fe, moving there in 1952 to a studio home on Canyon Road. The villages and landscape between Santa Fe and Taos soon became the primary focuses of her art.

Working with the high-keyed palette and individualized brushwork of impressionism, Leggett conveyed the sun-drenched colors and pellucid light of the desert sky in paintings of adobe churches, houses, ranches, ghost towns, and natural features. She was particularly interested in the local way of life and its heritage, an inclination apparent in the present work, Socorro Mission. Here Leggett depicts the famous Franciscan mission of Nuestra Señora de Limpia Concepción de los Piros de Socorro del Sur (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of the Piros of Socorro of the South), located in Socorro, Texas, not far from her home in El Paso. Dedicated in 1843, the mission derives its name from the Mission of Socorro, New Mexico, the ancestral home of the Piro Indians who fled to the El Paso Valley in the aftermath of the Pueblo Rebellion. The mission, constructed of adobe surfaced with stucco, is notable for its finely decorated and historically important interior.

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Leggett portrays the mission from its distinctively shaped front façade. Two worshippers approach the entrance across the tree-shaded grounds, upon which shadows are rendered in deep purple-blues that play nicely off the mission’s white stucco exterior. Leggett’s lively, bright colors suggest influences from the folk traditions indigenous to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico.

Leggett’s painting is a delightful depiction of one of the most architecturally unique and important missions in the Southwest.

Ref.: Samuels’ Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, p. 284.

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