Emil Bisttram is considered one of New Mexico's most progressive modernist painters. His work and teaching significantly influenced the arts in the region throughout his career. As co-founder of the Transcendental Painting Group in 1938, Bisttram and fellow artist Raymond Jonson believed art could transcend the visible world and reach a higher intellectual plane through abstract, non-objective forms. They perceived the subject of a painting not as an end in itself but as a springboard in space and color suggesting a real theme.
Born on the Hungarian-Romanian border, Bisttram moved to New York's East Side around 1907. By the time he was 20, Bisttram had established his own freelance advertising art agency, the first in the country. In 1920, he gave up the agency and devoted his energy to fine art. Studies with Ivan Blinsky at the National Academy of Design, Leon Kroll at the Arts Students League, and Howard Giles at the Parsons School of Design set him on a creative path which would eventually lead him from commercial design to transcendental painting.
In 1931, Bisttram received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Italy for two years. Fearing Mussolini's policies, Bisttram chose Mexico instead, where he studied with Diego Rivera. Upon returning to U.S. Bisttram settled in Taos, New Mexico, where he opened the Taos School of Art (renamed the Bisttram School of Art in 1943). The school drew students from around the country until its close in 1965.
Bisttram's work brought him recognition and honors throughout the nation including exhibitions at the Whitney, Guggenheim and Corcoran Museums. He was an artist, muralist, theosophist and civic servant who won nationwide acclaim.
Actively seeking works by Emil Bisttram.