1913 – 1999
Steinke spent her early years in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where her father, William “Jolly Bill” Steinke worked a caricaturist and cartoonist for the local newspaper. The family then moved to New York, where William worked on a children’s radio show on NBC.
In New York, Steinke attended the Fawcett Art School, Cooper Union, and then the Phoenix Art Institute on scholarship for two years. After six years of art education, she began her career with the help of her father, assisting with a mural for NBC Radio in 1937. She worked as a portraitist and commercial illustrator for a decade; her clients included, among others: Texaco, Bayer Aspirin, Baldwin Piano Company.
In 1946, she married photographer Don Blair. The couple began to work together for her portraits: she would sketch, and Blair would take reference photos. They moved west to Oklahoma, and then to Taos in 1955. In New Mexico, Steinke mentored a group of male artists, including Ned Jacob, George Carlson, and others; they affectionately referred to her as “Mother Blair.”
The Blairs moved to Santa Fe in 1970, where she focused on private portrait commissions. Notable persons painted during this time include Dwight Eisenhower and Lady Bird Johnson; however, she is best known for her portraits of Native Americans. Steinke has won numerous awards, including the Prix de West award and the John Singer Sargent Award for Lifetime Achievement.