Emil Bisttram (1895-1976)


Emil Bisttram was a Taos Modernist painter and a founding member of the Transcendental Painting Group of New Mexico. Bisttram was born in Hungary in 1895 and immigrated to New York City at the age of eleven with his family. He began working as a commercial artist at a young age and started taking night classes at the National Academy of Art and Design. He went on to study at the Cooper Union, Parsons and the Art Students League. After the completion of his studies, he taught at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts and the Master Institute of the Roerich Museum.

Bisttram visited Taos in 1930. The next year he traveled to Mexico on a Guggenheim fellowship to study mural painting with Diego Rivera. He returned to Taos shortly after, where he founded the avant-garde Taos School of Art and the Heptagon Gallery. While he came to Taos as a strictly representational painter, Bisttram came to be profoundly influenced by the abstractions of Wassily Kandinsky. In 1938 Bisttram and the painter Raymond Johnson founded the Transcendental Painting Group in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Through his involvement in the group, Bisttram’s work was included in several group exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Emil Bisttram’s legacy as an artist, educator and arts advocate remains very much alive in New Mexico today. Many of Bisttram’s students at the Taos Art School went on to become well-known artists in their own right, such as painter Cliff Harmon. April 7th has been designated a New Mexico State holiday known as “Emil Bisttram Day”. Bisttram remained in Taos until his passing in 1974.


Emil Bisttram at 203 Fine Art

The following exhibition catalogues, published by 203 Fine Art, feature works by Emil Bisttram. Please follow the links to view the catalogues on Issuu.

Taos Moderns in Santa Fe | 2019

Taos Moderns Return to The Stables Gallery | 2018

Taos Moderns: Bridging the Gap | 2015

Photo by Mildred Tolbert
Photo by Mildred Tolbert

Schools of Study

National Academy of Design
Cooper Union
New York School of Fine and Applied Art

Partial List of Collections

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Logan, UT
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR
New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ

Selected Exhibitions

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. 1940, 1944, 1950
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI 1961
The Harwood Museum of Art, 1983
The Owings Gallery, Santa Fe, NM 2009

Selected Works in Our Inventory