Santa Fe’s Early Artists

Remnants of pottery brought back to life.

The genesis of Santa Fe as an art mecca begins with Neolithic artifacts. Decorative shards of pottery from the 13th century, along with remnants of Native American baskets woven from twine, mark the passage of time. They remain under the protection of museum gatekeepers, allowing a glimpse into a world frozen in the past.

The Franciscan missionaries introduced religious art.

Iconic idolatry followed in the 1600s with the arrival of the Spanish colonists. More than 300 years ago, Franciscan friars established their roots of devotion to the santos. These Catholic religious images were often painted on deer or elk hide. Adorned with straw applique, they represented one of many art forms in the region.

Santa Fe’s Sunmount Sanitorium began as a series of tent cottages.

By the mid-19th century the third wave of artists trickled in to Santa Fe. Some came as military mapmakers who did their part to secure the region for the United States. Finally, it was tuberculosis, that solidified the foundation of Santa Fe as a major art center. Also known as the White Plague, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in this country from 1880 through 1940. The pristine arid climate brought hundreds of people to Santa Fe to the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The solitude of convalescence awakened a core of creativity at Sunmount Sanitorium.


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