15. Will Shuster (1893–1969). “Puye,” 1927.
Etching. Plate: 9 x 7." Signed, l.r. Titled, l.l. “100,” l.c. Frame: 16 x 12." Even toning. Fine for the print.
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In his early work, Will Shuster responded to the New Mexico environment with a modernist approach and an empathetic eye. In the etching “Puye,” the artist depicts a landscape where the trees are welcoming presences along the path, so that the view seems familiar even without any truly identifiable features. The abstract simplicity of this rendering gives force to its scale.
William Shuster moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1920 and the following year formed the artist’s group Los Cinco Pintores along with Jozef Bakos, Willard Nash, Fremont Ellis and Walter Mruk. This important group became the foundation of the modernist art colony in Santa Fe. Their first exhibition was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe during December of 1921. Shuster joined another group, which formed in the summer of 1923 that was called New Mexico Painters. They exhibited their work in eastern and mid-western galleries and museums as well as in the west and the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts. By June of 1924, John Sloan, Randall Davey, Andrew Dasburg and Theodore Van Soelen had joined the group. That same year, New Mexico Painters exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum and at the San Diego Museum. Los Cinco Pintores was dissolved in 1926. Shuster exhibited frequently at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, but it wasn’t until 1947 that the museum exhibited fine art prints by the several New Mexico artists who had long established themselves in the medium. Shuster had studied electrical engineering at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, and eventually came to study sketching while still in Philadelphia with William Server. Later, he was a student of John Sloan in Santa Fe in both etching and painting. In the interim, Shuster served abroad in World War I and suffered a gas attack. After his return to Philadelphia, Schuster was diagnosed with tuberculosis and advised to move to the Southwest, precipitating his move to Santa Fe.
Will Shuster is popularly remembered along with Gustave Baumann for the creation and burning of Zozobra in 1925, a tradition that remains alive today. During the Depression, Shuster worked for the WPA and created murals for Santa Fe’s Museum of Fine Arts patio and Carlsbad Caverns. His work also included illustrations for the frontier biography, My Life on the Frontier, by Governor M.A. Otero. Shuster’s artworks are held in a number of important collections including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of New Mexico, the Newark Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Spencer Museum of Art, Stark Museum of Art, and the Tucson Museum of Art.
Ref: Clinton Adams, Printmaking In New Mexico: 1880–1990 (1991).