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Willard Nash

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Biography

Willard Nash was one of the earliest and most sophisticated artists of the Santa Fe Art Colony and a founding member of the young artists’ group that called itself Los Cinco Pintores, or “The Five Painters.”  The Cinco Pintores, comprised of Willard Nash, Jozef Bakos, Will Shuster, Fremont Ellis and Walter Mruk, believed in experimenting freely with modernist painting methods.  They were united in their desire to experiment in the then avant-garde methods of Cubism, Fauvism and Expressionism.  Under the tutelage of Andrew Dasburg, Nash, more than the other members of this group, explored the structural principals of fragmented form made famous by Paul Cézanne.  

After his move to Santa Fe from Detroit in 1921, Nash’s work became increasingly infused with an abstract simplicity and cubist spirit, and he became known to journalists and critics of the 1930s and 1940s as “an American Cézanne.” The great Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, helped to further establish Nash’s reputation in the early 1930s by calling him “one of the six greatest living American artists,” whose paintings proved there was “still personality in American art.”

Nash spent his formative years studying at the Detroit School of Fine Arts under John P. Wicker.  His works were exhibited in New York during 1932-33 at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s First Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting and also at the Whitney’s 1935 show, Abstract Art in America. In 1936, Nash moved to Pasadena, California and began painting portraits of Hollywood luminaries and film stars, also working as an illustrator for 20th Century Fox and MGM Studios.  He returned to Albuquerque with his second wife in 1941 and died the following year from complications caused by his tuberculosis.