Like many modern artists and collectors drawn to northern New Mexico in the early decades of the twentieth century, Marsden Hartley was struck by the power of the art and the landscape. He spent eighteen months in Taos in 1918-19, where he immersed himself in landscape studies that he described as "an American discovering America." Thrilled by the starkness of the area with its "altar like" mountains and immense blue skies, Hartley included, in his still-life paintings of the same period, depictions of the santos (images of the saints) and bultos (carved sculptures of saints) made by artists in the local mountain villages. The directness, authenticity, and spirituality of the local art served as a model for his own painting.
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