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2009 Catalog > 1. Turner, “Village Among Cottonwoods.”



1. Ben Turner. “Village Among Cottonwoods,” c. 1950. Oil on linen canvas, 20 1/4 x 30." Frame: 29 x 39." Signed at l. l. Excellent.

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This painting is a superb example of the animated quality that characterizes much of Ben Turner’s artwork. Glistening fall foliage throws into high contrast the massive, ancient and highly textured cottonwood trees that dominate the canvas. Glimpses of a village and distant hills are perhaps indicative that the scene is in Tesuque, a village Turner had painted on other occasions. Two tiny figures emphasize the grandeur of the cottonwood trees that are rendered with an immediacy reminiscent of works by Van Gogh. The intensity and vigor with which Turner approached his subject likely carried from his experiences drawing battle scenes in World War II.


Born in New Mexico, Robert Turner (1912-1966) was a descendant of the English Romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). He attended the University of New Mexico and Chicago Art Institute. Turner began his career as a cartoonist, with the creation of a comic strip named “Jerry ‘n Jake,” syndicated in over 48 newspapers in the Southwest. He refined his fine art practice in Taos, painting alongside Eanger Irving Couse, Ernest Blumenschein, Victor Higgins and Joseph Henry Sharp. During World War II, Turner worked as an artist during his service and established a staff of artists for the 15th Army Air Corps. Their work included poster art, portraiture, and likely the popular aircraft nose art as well. Turner himself spent much time sketching battle scenes, some of which he later rendered in paint. His depictions of battle scenes were featured in Look and Life magazines at the time. Turner’s return to New Mexico marked a period of great success for his landscape paintings. Eventually he would establish studios in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, in Redstone, Colorado and in Mazatlan, Mexico.

Click to view Ben Turner’s signature on this painting.

Ben Turner’s paintings are held in a number of important permanent collections including the Library of Congress, the Museum of New Mexico, and the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas. In 2004, Turner’s work was featured in a traveling exhibition organized by the Hearst Art Gallery, titled Serenading the Light: Painters of the Desert Southwest.

Ref: David Clemmer, Serenading the Light: Painters of the Desert Southwest (2003).

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