OSCAR EDMUND BERNINGHAUS
The Pursuit of Geronimo, 1900
Oil on canvas
24 x 36 inches/61 x 91 centimeters
Signed and dated lower right, "O.E. Berninghaus, 1900"
Frame: 32.25 x 44 inches
Two verso gallery labels reading "Fenn Galleries"
Verso stamp reading "Fenn Galleries LTD."
Verso gallery label reading "Biltmore Galleries"
Verso gallery label reading "Gerald Peters Gallery"
Verso inscription on foam core in ink reading "This painting, The Pursuit, was purchased from the artist in his studio in St. Louis in 1900 by Mr. Milo Bekin (later to be known for his moving and storage co.). It was given to the Boy Scouts of America in 1939 and purchased from them by Fenn Galleries in 1974. It is mentioned in "Pioneer Artists of Taos" by Laura Bickerstaff as indicated hereon. Signed "Forrest Fenn"
Artist to Mr. Milo Bekin (1900)
Donated to Boys Scouts of America (1939)
Fenn Galleries, Santa Fe, NM (1974)
Biltmore Galleries to Private Collector, Kansas
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
Property of Esteemed Gentleman, Iowa
Illustrated St. Louis Star Illustrated, October 1900. Of Berninghaus the paper wrote "Mr. O.E. Berninghaus, although a young man, has gained the reputation as a painter of Native Americans. He ranks among the foremost of Indian Painters of the country"
Laura Bickerstaff, Pioneer Artists of Taos, Old West Publishing Co., Denver, 1955, p.88 referenced.
Gordon E. Sanders, Oscar E. Berninghaus - Taos - New Mexico - Master Painter of American Indians & the Frontier West, Taos, Taos Heritage Publishing Company, 1985, p.14 referenced, p.130 listed.
SELECTED TEXTS & REFERENCES:
Ina Sizer Cassidy, "Art and Artists of New Mexico", New Mexico Magazine 11, January 1933, pp.41-42
Patricia James Broder, Taos: A Painter's Dream, Boston, NY Graphic Society, 1980, pp.115-135.
Mary Carroll Nelson, The Legendary Artists of Taos, Watson-Guptill Publications, NYC, 1980, pp.36-41
Charles C. Eldredge, Julie Schimmel, William H. Treuttner, Art in New Mexico 1900-1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe, National Museum of Art, Abbeville Press, Washington D.C.
The turn of the century - 1900 - was a seminal year for the young Berninghaus. He had decided to make a career as a painter, and especially a painter of the American Frontier - the Indians, the mountains and life in the West. In 1900, Berninghaus returned to Taos, this time spending the entire summer, sketching and painting the Pueblo and the Indians. He returned to St. Louis with several paintings, many of which were reproduced in the St. Louis Star Illustrated including The Pursuit of Geronimo, with an article on the artist. Along with other flattering commentary, the columnist noted that, "Mr. O.E. Berninghaus, although a young man, has gained the reputation as a painter of American Indians. He ranks among the foremost of Indian painters of the country."
Berninghaus continued to return to Taos almost every summer for the next twenty-Five (5) years. As early as 1905, his work received critical acclaim in the newspapers of such far away cities as New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Some writers were already comparing him to Frederic Remington. A large known classic Western example by Berninghaus with its sophisticated illustrative style such as The Pursuit of Geronimo hasn't appeared on the art market in many decades.
Berninghaus depicts Geronimo atop a powerful black and white Pinto with a blood red blanket draped around his torso. Geronimo, the last of the fierce and defiant Apache Chief's turns in his saddle facing backwards and takes aim at U.S. Cavalry chasing him through the desolate and bleak landscape of the Southwest and Mexico. Geronimo holds and takes aim with a Sharpe's short barrel rifle not in desperation or defeat but rather with a keen and fierce determination. The second rider on horse directly behind Geronimo is probably his trusted friend and first lieutenant - Natchez. While Geronimo said he was never a chief, he was a military leader and as a Chiricahua Apache, this meant he was also a spiritual leader. He consistently urged raids and war upon many Mexican and later U.S. groups.
Berninghaus' representation of the last Apache Chief as a defiant rebel was popular news back in the artist's day as the US Army Cavalry division under the leadership of Captain Lawton was finally able to capture Geronimo and his few followers deep in the Southwest and Mexico along the Yaqui River. While outnumbered, Geronimo fought against both Mexican and United States troops and became famous for his daring exploits and numerous escapes from capture from 1858 to 1886. At the end of his military career, he led a small band of 38 men, women and children. They evaded 5,000 U.S. troops (One (1) fourth of the army at the time) and many units of the Mexican army for a year. His band was One (1) of the last major forces of independent Indian warriors who refused to acknowledge the United States Government in the American West. This came to an end on September 4th, 1886 when Geronimo surrendered to United States Army General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.