1890 - 1967
Born in Hamburg, Germany, Hans Paap was a world traveler who worked as an artist in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, and in the United States in Los Angeles, Taos, and New York. According to author Bess Murphy, Paap studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich before moving to Veracruz, Mexico in his early twenties to “study and work in lithography, textiles, fabric painting, and leatherwork.” Afterwards, he worked briefly as a filmmaker in the German film industry that was emerging around the time of World War I.
His travels and nomadic life are documented primarily in the material record of his paintings. Works from the 1920’s indicate he was influenced by late Impressionism and early Cubism and Fauvism as he developed a focus on two primary genres — portraits and landscapes. By 1928, Paap had made his way to Los Angeles where he exhibited works reflecting what Murphy refers to as his “evolving style” that was “in line with the post-Impressionist early European and American modern painters.” An LA Times article from this period quotes Paap as saying he intended his new work to “embody [his] conception of American life and energy.”
The portraits and landscapes Paap produced in around the world have been well received, but his New Mexican painting are his most iconic. As Murphy notes “Paap’s personal life and career was defined by his experience in Taos.” By the time he arrived around 1929, the Taos Society of Artists had already disbanded, but their efforts had elevated the area’s status as an international art colony that was attracting a second generation of artists and cultural luminaries such as Georgia O’Keeffe, John Sloan, Rebecca Salsbury James, and others. Paap himself would become friends with several of the founding members of the TSA including Kenneth Adams, E. Martin Hennings, and Walter Ufer.
These artists, and the land and people of the region, had a profound influence on Paap. The portraits and landscapes he produced during this period, as Murphy observes, were similarly “driven by a deeply romantic, exotic view of Northern New Mexico and its inhabitants.” Although Paap’s initial stay in Taos would only last a few years, he would eventually return again in 1949, following stints in Portugal, displaced persons camps in Germany, and two years confinement on Ellis Island. Forever the vagabond, by 1953 Paap had found his way to Hawaii, and for the next several years he traveled to locations across Europe, Mexico, and the United States, even visiting Taos again. He died in his birthplace of Hamburg, Germany, in 1967.