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Plein air beginnings in New Mexico

Expeditions into the Southwest often had an officially appointed artist. In 1849 Richard Kern painted what probably is the earliest artistic renderings of the Taos valley. He also documented Santa Fe and New Mexico's peoples as the expedition headed north towards the Grand Canyon.

Arnold Skolnick, ed. , Suzan Campbell, intro. (1994), Paintings of the Southwest, 1st ed. New York: Random House

The Taos Six

40 years later Joseph Henry Sharp wrote about his visit to Taos in 1893 and the magic landscape. His depiction inspired two artists living in Paris to visit New Mexico. These men where none other than Ernest L. Blumenschein and Bert Phillips.

As legend tells it, Blumenschein and Phillips were on their way to Santa Fe when their wagon wheel broke forcing them to look for a blacksmith in Taos. They decided to stay and returned more than once.

Ernest Leonard Blumenschein

The Taos Society of Artists

  • Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953) first visits Taos in 1893
  • Ernest Leonard Blumenschein (1874-1960) first visits Taos in 1898
  • Bert Geer Phillips (1868-1956) first visits Taos in 1898
  • Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936) first visits Taos in 1902
  • Oscar Edmund Berninghaus (1874-1952) first visits Taos in 1899
  • William Herbert “Buck” Dunton (1878-1936) first visits Taos in 1912
  • joins in 1926

Bert Geer Phillips

6 Became Ten, Eleven, and Twelve

  • Victor Higgins (1884-1949) to Taos in 1913 joins in 1917
  • Walter Ufer (1876-1936) to Taos in 1914 joins in 1917
  • Julius Rolshoven (1858-1930) joins in 1918
  • Ernest Martin Hennings (1886-1956) to Taos in 1917, joins in 1924
  • Kenneth Miller Adams (1897-1966)

Victor Higgins

Female Artists

Catherine Carter Crichter (1868-1964) unanimously voted into the Society and the only female member joins in 1924.

Blumenschein's wife was also an artist but not mentioned as part of the Taos society as far as we can tell.

Associate Members in Santa Fe

  • Robert Henri (1865-1929)
  • Albert L. Groll (1866-1952)
  • Randall Davey (1887-1964)
  • B.J.O. Nordfelt (1878-1955)
  • Gustave Bauman (1881-1971)
  • Birger Sandzen (1871-1954)
  • John Sloan (1871-1951)

Becoming well known as well:

Henry Balinck, Nicolai Fechin, Joseph Fleck, and Leon Gaspard.

Recent history

Phyllis Gunderson painting in Abiquiu, New Mexico


  • Barbara Coleman, 2024
  • Gwen Ethelbah, 2023
  • Phyllis Gunderson, 2021-2022
  • Natasha Isenhour, 2020
  • Dick Wimberly, 2019
  • John Meister, 2018
  • Tom Blazier, 2017
  • Punk Cooper, 2015-2016
  • Michael Lewis, 2014
  • Chuck Stup, 2013 
  • Nancy Silvia, 2012
  • Diana Stauffer, 2011
  • Carla Forrest, 2009-2010
  • Marilyn Drake, 2008

2007 & the web

In 2007, a seminal group of dedicated artists expressed their passion for contemporary plein air painting by founding Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, with Marilyn Drake serving as the Founding President. Bylaws were written, membership levels and criteria established, a website launched, and monthly paintouts held. In 2008, PAPNM filed for non-profit status with the State of New Mexico. PAPNM grew to 146 members including 15 signature members. For its first two years, PAPNM held an annual paintout and exhibition followed by a members’ meeting and dinner.

"Being outdoors and painting, especially when accompanied by fellow artists, was, and is, the underlying premise of PAPNM. There is nothing better than direct observation when it comes to depicting the subtleties of nature and capturing fleeting moments of pure magic." - Marilyn Drake, PAPNM Founding President


In January 2009, Premier (first elected) President, Carla Forrest held the first transition and strategic planning session, with focus on formalizing the organization for member benefit and creating alliances with public land groups. By 2010, PAPNM had obtained 501(c)6 non-profit tax-exempt status, launched a secure membership website, hosted numerous paintouts and workshops, and held its first museum exhibition at Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos. In 2011, President Diana Stauffer focused on building PAPNM brand awareness through co-operative advertising campaigns and public relations initiatives and expanding member reach beyond New Mexico. Members were surveyed to ensure PAPNM was meeting their expectations. In 2012, under the leadership of President Nancy Silvia, PAPNM realized continued growth and stability.


In 2013, President Chuck Stup, with the help of many volunteers, made the Santa Fe Plein Air Festival a reality. Out-of-state membership grew and in-state membership remained steady through 2014, resulting in a total of nearly 300 members. By 2015, Patron volunteers became vital in growing our organization, acquiring contributions, and raising funds. The total value of donations was $23,764. The largest donors were Southwest Art and Plein Air magazines. By the end of 2016, PAPNM had 6 Master Signature Members, 22 Signature Members, and 30 Patrons in addition to the Artist Members. In 2017, the Board was expanded to include four advocate positions for functional areas of the organization: Membership, Governance, Communication and Events.


In 2018, President John Meister, along with a record number of volunteers, led the accomplishment of several significant organizational tasks and member events. The bylaws were revised and adopted, establishing four new Board of Directors positions (Directors of Governance, Membership, Events, and Communications), and a new Membership Policy was developed and implemented, clarifying new criteria for Signature and Master Signature levels of membership. Additionally, accounting, website, and volunteer software was upgraded. Santa Fe was chosen as the location for Plein Air Magazine’s national Plein Air Convention and Expo (PACE) with a record attendance of nearly 1,200 plein air painters from around the world. PAPNM staffed an information table at PACE to promote membership and painting en plein air in New Mexico, acting as an “Ambassador” for our state. Two weeks after PACE, PAPNM hosted the 2018 Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta, a week-long juried plein air event and exhibition at Sorrel Sky Gallery in Santa Fe. Other member events included an exhibition at Clovis Community College, a multi-day painting event in Los Alamos with an exhibition at the Fuller Lodge, and a record-breaking National Juried Members' Exhibition (our 10th anniversary show) at Sorrel Sky Gallery. The year culminated with a Winter Invitational Exhibition of PAPNM’s Signature and Master Signature Members at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House. PAPNM closed the 2018 books with a membership roster of nearly 400 members, roughly 30% of whom reside out-of-state.


As of 2019, PAPNM has truly become an internationally respected arts organization and has many exciting events and activities in store for the future. Updates are regularly posted on the PAPNM website and announced in the quarterly newsletters.

In 2020 the world battles the pandemic COVID-19. Plein Air members pivot with indoor live painting challenges. Annual shows and exhibitions are hosted online. Workshops are regulated by size, social distancing and the use of face masks.


While plein air painters have always been adept in painting outdoors with respect to distance, the pandemic has required PAPNM to remind members they signed a release of liability upon becoming members. 

Mail information to:
P. O. Box 20503
Albuquerque, NM 

Mail Payments to: 
PAPNM Treasurer
P.O. Box 1948
Santa Fe, NM 87504 

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