Walter Ufer (1876-1936) Lone Rider in Old Santa Fe 25 x 30in

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Lot 63
Walter Ufer
Lone Rider in Old Santa Fe 25 x 30in

Sold for US$ 100,000 inc. premium
Walter Ufer (1876-1936)
Lone Rider in Old Santa Fe
signed 'WUfer' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 x 30in


  • Provenance
    Sale, Jim Fowler's Period Gallery West, Phoenix, Arizona, October 23, 1983, lot 360.
    Acquired by the late owner from the above.

    S.H. McGarry, Honoring The Western Tradition: The L.D. "Brink" Brinkman Collection, Kerrville, Texas, 2003, p. 81, illustrated.

    Born in Huckeswagen, Germany, and raised by immigrant parents in Louisville, Kentucky, Walter Ufer was a notable draftsman and colorist. During his formative years, Ufer apprenticed as a lithographer, only deciding on painting as a profession after visiting the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Thereafter he traveled to Germany to study academic realism, training in Hamburg and the Royal Academy in Dresden. Returning stateside in 1900, he worked as an illustrator, printer, portrait painter, and taught art classes in Chicago, but within a year relocated to Munich in 1911 to further his artistic endeavors. In 1914, Ufer once again found himself in Chicago attracting the attention of the city's mayor, Carter Harrison, for his artistic talents. Fatefully, Harrison awarded Ufer with a subsidized trip to Taos, which would become Ufer's permanent home by 1917.

    Taos, in the form of fellow artists and the inspiring light of New Mexico, transformed his work. Like his fellow European-trained artists who flocked to Taos, Ufer abandoned studio methods in favor of direct sunlight in the expansive, untamed land of the American Southwest. His New Mexico repertoire consisted of genre scenes of Native Americans and Taos inhabitants engaged in daily activities. He also mastered the essence, anatomy, and dynamism of horses, favoring representations of riders on horseback crossing brilliant landscapes.

    In Lone Rider in Old Santa Fe, Ufer upends the typical depictions of the Southwest for something more quotidian. A rider on his mule on a dirt road. The rider in question is fellow Taos founder Ernest Martin Hennings. The younger man, Hennings admired Ufer both artistically and politically. They studied in Munich at the same time and even lived in the same apartment building in Chicago prior. Hennings followed Ufer's lead to Taos and both artists focused on creating authentic depictions of Taos and the native inhabitants. The painting is a masterful contradiction of a romantic portrayal and showcases Ufer's use of painterly brushstrokes, saturated natural light, and a vivid, high-keyed palette. The composition is a series of roughly diagonal bands. The brightest light is the sun-washed triangle that makes up the foreground lower left with a few rocks and dabs of green to break up the creamy browns and tans of the earth. The second diagonal is composed of the shadows cast by a tree not depicted in the actual painting, the rider and his mule and the pitched roof structure further up the hill. The third diagonal, defined again with the slope of the roof consists of the brilliant cloud-dotted sky and the intense vibrant greens and blues of the trees which make up the entire upper right quadrant of the picture.

    Ufer's brushwork combines with his mastery of color to convey not just atmosphere but movement as well. The dust kicked up by the mule's feet is so very subtle and the mule's shadow courses over the ground almost unconsciously impressing on the viewer the unhurried gait of the mule. This unity of color and brushwork is not accidental. Lone Rider in Old Santa Fe is emblematic of advice he gave his students, "Treat things as a whole. The horse becomes a part of the mesa and takes on the colors of the mesa." The rider and the landscape are one entity.1 In this case, the colors of the rider's pants and saddle are the same as those in the leaves of the trees and their shadows. Similarly, the colors in the tree trunk are found in the mule and the rider's jacket. The Lone Rider in Old Santa Fe demonstrates exactly how much can be extracted from the crisp New Mexico light by the eye of a supremely talented painter.

    1 P. J. Broder, Taos: A Painter's Dream, New York Graphic Society, Boston, 1980, p. 228.
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