Ufer, Walter

Born in Germany, Walter Ufer emigrated to Kentucky as a boy. His father, a master engraver and gunsmith, apprenticed young Walter to a lithography firm. With his parents’ support, Ufer traveled to Europe and completed his studies in Dresden. While there, Ufer became friends with Joseph Sharp and Ernest Blumenschein, two crucial colleagues in Ufer’s career. When he returned to the States, Ufer settled in Chicago, where Mayor Carter Harrison became the artist’s first patron. Though Ufer, an avowed socialist, bristled at Harrison’s patronage, it was Harrison who sent Ufer to Taos, where he met up again with Sharp and Blumenschein and found his subject—the Indians of the New Mexico Pueblos. Ufer also took Harrison’s advice and devoted himself to painting the Indian “as he is,” without the overtones of romanticism that characterized Native American depiction. Ufer was eagerly accepted into the Taos Society of Artists. His legacy of socially significant paintings, combining strong composition, elegant impasto work and vibrant light and color make him one of the most striking figures in early 20th century American art.

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