Oscar E. Berninghaus
The Forty-Niners
Before 1942
Oil on canvas
26 1/4 inches x 36 1/4 inches
Born in St. Louis in 1874, Oscar Berninghaus began work in lithography in 1889 and was a painter's apprentice in 1893 while studying at the St. Louis Society of Fine Arts. Berninghaus was an established commercial artist when he visited New Mexico in 1899 and became "infected with the Taos germ." He is the only member of the famous Taos artists' colony represented in the Sid Richardson Museum. Berninghaus painted many Indian subjects, giving them the full Taos treatment, but also created works in which horses and humans were reduced to inconspicuous elements in the spectacular mountainous landscape that lured painters to northern New Mexico. He did paint Western historical pictures, five murals for the Missouri State Capitol at Jefferson City and a series of oils for the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company of St. Louis on the theme of early western transportation. The Forty-niners, in subject matter and style, forms part of this familiar body of his work. The conjunction of stagecoach, covered wagons, and prospectors west of the Sierra Nevada range gave it an allegorical quality. It is an unapologetic tribute to the Anglo pioneering and a celebration of civilization's advance westward.


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