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Helmuth Naumer

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Biography

Helmuth Naumer grew up in the small town of Ruetlingen, Germany, in the heart of the Black Forest.  As a boy, he did not envision castles or the dark interiors of his homeland, but of the exciting adventures of cowboys and Indians of the American West.  He was born into a culture where it was assumed he would join the family business; but the romantic images of the west by author Karl May were too tempting.  He left for New York in 1925 with only a few coins in his pocket.

By the end of 1926, Naumer had crossed the United States, stopping briefly in Santa Fe before pushing on to Los Angeles.  Being low on funds, and still desiring to travel, Naumer joined the Merchant Marines.  After six years at sea, his need for adventure was subdued, but he continued to dream about the west.  By 1932, Naumer returned to the city that for him, epitomized the “Old West”; he settled permanently in Santa Fe.  Naumer said he “wanted to make a record if this country before it was overrun, still wild and beautiful because once that’s gone we can never get it back.”

In the artistic environment of Santa Fe, Naumer befriended several local artists.  He began painting landscapes and was fascinated by the striking characteristics of the surrounding mountains.  Serrated mountain tops and the chasms between them caught his eye and stirred his emotions.  His favorite medium was pastel, although he also worked in oil and watercolor.  With pastels, he did not have to waste time mixing colors or worry about colors fading over time.  Pastels were “ideal for catching the fleeting effects of sky and earth of the New Mexico landscape with the fast changing colors that sweep across them.”

Naumer became adept at discreetly cataloguing the particulars of a scene and then fitting them together in a discriminating manner; so as to evoke the essential qualities of a first-hand encounter with nature.  His mature visions of the Southwest are both formally integrated and romantic, and also are a valuable historical document of that time.  This rare achievement was one that earned him critical acclaim and attracted the attention of collectors throughout the country.